How Did Shelter Works Get Its Start?

This year, Shelter Works is celebrating 20 years in business. I’m Tracy Switzer and today I’m gonna answer the question, “How did we get our start?”

I grew up in the fiberglass business. My dad and his brother had a boat company. In the ’50s, they started making boats in wood. In the early ’60s, they transitioned into fiberglass boats. And in the early ’70s, someone walked into our factory one day and said, “Hey, can you make a building out of fiberglass, a small shed-type building?” And my dad looked at his brother, and the brother looked back at my dad and they said, “Why not? Of course we can.”

They had capacity. They had plenty of free time in the winter months when they weren’t making boats. They tried it, and the customer loved the first building. He said, “Keep making them, and we’ll keep buying them.” So I grew up around this fiberglass building concept, and then my dad and his brother sold their business when I was in college ( in the early ’80s).

About five years later, I went back to work for that same company they had sold, and within a year or so, I became their plant manager. I redesigned everything. I was very much involved in the product, and I loved product. I didn’t love business as much,but I loved product — making, designing, engineering, and making things better.

So that was my whole focus. I did that for about five years and decided it was time for me to start my own company. My brother Peter was available at the time. He owned some fiberglass manufacturing equipment, and he had a facility that we could use. He was already making small parts for another industry. We decided to partner up and form this company, and that’s what we did. We bootstrapped it. We did everything ourselves. You know, we were doing sales. We were doing the marketing. We were spraying fiberglass in gel coat, and cutting and trimming and assembling and delivering product to our clients. It was a very humble beginning, and I don’t think we took salaries for maybe two years, maybe three years.

Having my own business really allowed me to continue to refine the product. I was able to experiment when I wanted to experiment, make changes and improvements along the way whenever some inspiration came to me, and it allowed me to build products that would last a long time and function correctly for the client. And you know, we say in our advertising, if it was built by Shelter Works, it was built for life, and we mean it.

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