Riding the Marcellus shale boom in Pennsylvania since its founding only a year and half ago, Magna-Solutions LLC was named the area’s emerging business of the year in 2011 and has become vertically integrated as a manufacturer, distributor and retailer of fire-resistant (FR) clothing and accessories.
CEO Michele Richardson has combined her 10 years in the fashion industry in New York with her cousin Andrea Franzen and Andrea’s husband Jay’s oilfield supply industry contacts and real estate holdings. The Magna-Solutions sales team will go anywhere to meet corporate customers and discuss FR gear, and the company plans international expansion from its single store location in Cogan Station, Pa.
“We’re not an average mom-and-pop shop,” Richardson emphasizes. Magna-Solutions LLC can handle orders of up to 60,000 pieces monthly for its variety of corporate clients. “We have a huge capacity, a great deal of resources, and we can serve our customers in a lot of different ways,” she stresses.
Magna-Solutions has sold products to operations in more than 12 states including Oklahoma, Louisiana, Texas, Ohio, West Virginia, New York and Pennsylvania. The company also is seeking business in the Middle East, the Caribbean and South America, where Richardson believes there is huge potential for growth.
OSHA has been concentrating its efforts on enforcement of its regulation that all workers must wear FR clothing, Richardson observes.
The quality of fire-resistant clothing varies depending on the price of the garment. “With some brands, the fire retardant is already embedded into the fiber,” Richardson relates.
“Other cost friendly garments use a process whereby an FR chemical is applied to the cotton fabric,” Richardson continues. “While this garment is less expensive than other garments we offer, the fire-retardant factor wears out after a number of washes.”
Margins Building Business
The cost to outfit a worker with flame-resistant clothing averages between $100 and $490, Richardson estimates. “Because Magna is a newer company, we want to stay competitive, make the right business connections and expand our brand, MagnaFR,” she says.
The company opened its retail store in a 6,000-square-foot facility owned by the Franzens. At first, they thought it would just be a place for shipping and receiving orders for their MagnaFR fire-resistant clothing line.
“But then it turned out to be a pretty busy business on its own,” Richardson reports. “It’s a great advertising advantage in itself.”
The idea for Magna-Solutions LLC came about when Jay Franzen – who works for an oilfield supply company, which outfits trucks for the natural gas industry – kept hearing that employees needed a source for flame-resistant clothing. Joined by Richardson’s husband, Christian, the two couples self-financed Magna-Solutions, founded it in 2011 and obtained positive cash flow within six months.
Magna-Solutions LLC won the 2011 Emerging Business Award from Lock Haven University and the Williamsport, Pa., Chamber of Commerce, and recently hosted a cruise on a riverboat to raise money for local charities.
“We’re excited about that,” Richardson exclaims. “It will mark our first-year store anniversary. It’s a giveback to the local community, a great networking event for the Marcellus Shale community, and it’s a whole lot of fun.” Richardson and Franzen look forward to expanding this woman-operated business into international waters next. EMI