LAKE FOREST, Ill.—A company that makes protective products used in the hose and other industries is looking to grow now that two of its principals are devoting full time to the business.
Bernie and Mary Jacobsen founded SRM Industries Inc. in 2003 as a bit of a sideline to Bernie's career in the hydraulic products industry following a suggestion from a customer. Mary Jacobsen said the client customer said if Bernie would manufacture a protective sleeving line for hydraulic hoses, the firm would buy from him because other sources at the time weren't reliable.
"We talked about it and decided it would be a good business venture," Mary Jacobsen said.
She had a business background, running a $70 million business unit in the health care field, but she left her prior career to become owner and president of SRM. "There's nothing like owning your own business," she said. "I have business development experience, I have management experience, and I have financial and sales experience."
On their own
There was no seed money provided by any of the three prospective customers or outside investors, or purchase orders on the book, she said. It was all done on a handshake basis.
So over the next two years, the Jacobsens were able to re-source production of the sleeves with U.S. manufacturers.
"I took a product and redesigned it and made it better," Bernie Jacobsen said, "and then went out to find suppliers who could meet those specifications."
The first samples of the RhinoSleeve-brand product were shown at the MineExpo in 2004, and the first sales took place in 2005. SRM got Mine Safety Health Administration standard approval in June 2005, a designation that lets the product be used in nearly all applications, he said.
"The key to our product is a special inline process where we make it a tighter weave," said Bernie, who serves as company vice president. "We use a minimum of four times more yarn per inch, both laterally and horizontally, than anybody else does."
Through evolution, SRM developed the RhinoSleeve HT, designed for higher temperatures with the same characteristics. From there, the company has introduced several other lines, including RhinoWraps, RhinoStrap and the Rhino spiral guard for hoses, cables and wires. The newest is the RhinoShield, for use with pumpers utilized in the concrete field.
All the products carry the "Rhino" moniker because in the animal world, rhinos have the toughest skin, a characteristic the SRM lines share, Bernie Jacobsen said.
Over the years, though, he remained working full time in the hydraulics field, most recently at Ryco Hydraulics Inc., until he left there in September 2012.
For most of the time, the company had just the Jacobsens to run it. But that changed when Kevin Jones, a former colleague of Bernie's at Ryco, joined the firm in 2011 as general manager.
"I knew about the product, I knew about the company," Jones said. "I've always told Bernie that all this company really needed was somebody to put some full-time focus into it because it was just primed and ready to go."
Jones is based out of Houston—the Jacobsens are in Lake Forest—and soon after hiring him, SRM located a new warehouse in the Texas city. Counting the three principals, SRM now has four full-time employees and one part-timer.
Bernie Jacobsen said SRM does some fabrication of its newer products at the Houston distribution site, but he does not see the firm ever manufacturing the protective sleeve line itself.
Mary Jacobsen said the main goal for SRM is continued growth.
"With our current method, we have a lot of ways to customize products for the customer based on their specific needs," she said, noting that SRM can supply lines on a private label basis, provide custom sizes and even create new products.
The firm won't release sales, but it said revenue climbed every year except during the economic downturn. Bernie Jacobsen said sales rose about 50 percent last year, with gains of 50-75 percent expected this year.
They said a lot of business comes from the contacts Jones and Bernie Jacobsen have made during their year in the hydraulics business, but the firm also gets a lot of hits on its website, www.rhinosleeve.com.