Guy Chemical Company
selected as the Western Penna. SBA Exporter of the Year
May ~ 2013
SOMERSET, PA Guy Berkebile always enjoyed mixing chemicals in his bathroom to create household products. He doesn’t use a home-based laboratory anymore, but rather a 40,000 square-foot-building bearing his moniker Guy Chemical Company, Inc.
Berkebile will be lauded as the Small Business Administration (SBA) Western Pennsylvania Exporter of the Year. His selection commemorates the 50th annual celebration of entrepreneurial excellence from the SBA.
Berkebile, who at 14-years-old began cleaning offices at his family’s business, opened the doors to Guy Chemical 18 years ago to fill a career void.
“I was a bit frustrated in my current job that entailed production and international sales,” he explained. “In my overseas travels, an Egyptian customer asked me if I could provide him silicone produced in the United States and that’s how the company started.”
According to Berkebile, his client had to wait four months for the order to be filled. During that time, Berkebile visited the Somerset Economic Development Council and Southern Alleghenies Planning and Development Commission (SAPADC) to rent space and obtain a loan for equipment.
“I also mortgaged my house and used my entire savings to rent a 3,000 square-foot space in an incubator and buy the cheapest equipment I could find and got myself up and running,” Berkebile said. “That year, we made $34,000 in sales; but, we actually lost money for the first few years.”
In order to make his loan payments, Berkebile kept his full-time day job and spent his evenings and weekends at Guy Chemical. He hosted slumber parties for his kids while he pulled all-nighters.
“Our fourth year was the breakout year when sales exceeded $2 million and we were able to hire 11 employees,” Berkebile explained. “I thought we had hit the big time.”
The Pennsylvania State University graduate who holds a degree in business management could never have predicted such a promising future for his chemical company. The 70-member team mixes and packages silicones and epoxies for the automotive and hardware sectors in the United States and throughout the world.
“Right now, 60 percent of our business is packaging products and the remaining 40 percent we formulate for companies and hire a local artist to design the label to their specifications” he said. “While the products don’t state Guy Chemical on them, they can be found at local big box stores and overseas.”
Berkebile said he still gets a kick out of seeing his products at NAPA and Wal-Mart stores.
“The majority of people don’t realize the products are either made or formulated in Somerset,” he stated. “We don’t really need a marketing program because of our strong reputation.”
However, Berkebile did need help marketing his company overseas where he found countries wanted the exact packaging found in the United States. “If the label is slightly off, they believe they are not getting the same product,” he explained. “SAPADC helped us enter the market in China and we’ve used their client match program to work through consulates to schedule business appointments with other countries.”
The export assistance strategy helped Berkebile diversify sales and the company now sends 70 percent of its products overseas.
Today, Berkebile now owns the incubator where he once rented space with plans to expand the facility to 70,000 square-feet providing good wages and health care to his ever-growing workforce.
According to Carl Knoblock SBA Western Pennsylvania district director, Berkebile is a prime example of a business owner who utilized a science and business background to not only start a business but grow it by exporting. “In many countries, anything with a U.S.A. label equates to the highest industry standards,” Knoblock added. “Berkebile is providing the world with superior products and residents in Somerset with good jobs.”
“At Guy Chemical, international sales is not simply an “add on” to our revenue. It is the core of our business. From product development to sales and production, every employee at Guy Chemical is involved with the international market,” Berkebile said. “Being named SBA’s Western Pennsylvania Exporter of the Year is an honor and a reflection of the hard work and dedication to quality embodied by our workers.”