Today we’d like to introduce you to Reginald Phillips.
Reginald, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
Back in 1991 while working as a Design Engineer for a company located in Des Plaines, IL there were a lot of Injection Molding Machines producing plastic components for customers and my Manager noticed we had too many parts falling onto the floor and it was costing the company a lot money, I was asked to come up with something to stop this from happening. Some machines had old Cardboard and square clear thick dirty plastic to try and block these parts from bouncing all over the place. So I designed a shade similar to our home window shades that moved vertically up and down “but” my shade would move horizontally side by side with the machines. After a few months, each machine had a custom shield on it for each customers mold. Very easy, no more plastic components falling onto the floor, so I figured why not conduct a patent search to see what’s out there.
The next year was a little tough with the passing of my mother and going through a divorce after 10 years of marriage. After the divorce settlement, everyone got paid from the proceeds from the sale of our home. I thought about buying another home, but asked myself “what if that idea really works?” and I believe in myself, after all several units were already in production. So I spent $6,000 money I received from the house sale and applied for a patent. Moving forward within a year I was issued patent pending status that allowed me to start selling. Still working 8 hours a day, I spent 2 more hours each night building my business while also attending night school for engineering.
Perseverance, 5 years later although patent pending was issued I spent many days trying to get someone interested in my product so I waiting for the Plastic Show to come to Chicago. One day going to the McCormick Place Trade Show with my marketing brochures in hand that I made to show my product to other vendors, a match was made. I met a guy by the named Gary Cory from Plastic Process Equipment and he said, “Hey we could use that in our brochure” can you send me a prototype so I can so my boss?
So I contracted a company to produce 5 samples for me at a cost of $1,500, well that did not turn out well, come to find out he was a customer of PPE and my product was now a New Release in their Catalog, For whatever reason the guy was not happy with what he saw and the listing price of my product, he was so upset he kicked me out of his shop and suggested I get all my raw material from his shop. Wow! What just happened? He said he was not going to profit from this, hell I was losing all the money giving him a large percentage so I can get started. So, I contacted my cousin, he came with his van and we collected all my raw material and took him home sitting in my living room. Now I had no way of making my product.
Next day I contacted Gary and he suggest that look around my area for a Mom & Pop Shop, I went looking around my neighborhood on the Westside of Chicago right off Kedzie and Cermak Avenue to visit a lot of machine shops for help and companies kept closing the door in my face telling me “No Job” we’re not Hiring. I never asked for a job yet these guys would not give me time to explain why I was here.
I thought my appearance was appropriate I was not dressed for an interview so why am I not being heard? Being frustrated on my way home I stopped at my last machine shop, here we go again same thing, this time I put my foot in the door, before he closed it, Sir, I did not ask you for a job, I have a job for you if you would hear me out. The company owner was shocked and surprised by my actions So he gave me tour of his machine shop and asked if I had ever worked in a shop like this? My reply, no I have never wanting to work on a dirty machine shop that’s why I am a design engineer the guy who works upstairs so to answer your question? I have never worked on machines before doing metal fabrication.
Next question he asked? Where’s your blue prints and material? I handed him a set of drawings and had to go back home to pick up my material. Since I had no truck, I found a grocery cart in the alley and used it to move my material 3 block down Cermak, very funny, people though I was homeless collecting scrap metal pushing a buggy in the streets. Upon arriving the he opened the door and started smiling, come on in and get to work.
So now I had to learn how to make these units myself, after 5 units were made I spent the entire weekend testing the best one to send to Gary Croy at PPE. That Monday I shipped the unit out and was very excited that this was really happening, well 2 days later I received a call from Gary telling me “good news, bad news”. Good news the Company President likes it, Bad news, it “Broke” during his review. Oh No! I was crushed, so we talked about what I can do to make it more durable, I said no problem Gary, I have just the right idea. So I made some material changes and sent in another unit for approval, the next day I received a purchase order for $5052.00 for 24 different sizes and quantity. An inventors dream come true, time to incorporate.
In 1997 Mold Shields was founded, later I took a job as a Researcher working for Battelle (BMI) Space and Transportation Division/NASA, I was introduced to some unique technology and later allowed me to release another shade that was better that before, so now I have 48 items in the brochure. Now it was time to move on to Defense Contracts. I spent 2 years with a mentor explaining how to identity these contracts on the computer how to bid. After 2 years of training I submitted my paperwork and Moldshields was approved for Defense Contracts expanding my business for manufacturing growth. In 2002 we started supporting our US. Soldiers at Tacom Rock Island Arsenal with a Spanner Wrench for the 40mm Grenade Launcher. As a result, we are now a Sole Source Supplier for this item working on a multi-year contract with the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) supplying to the US. Airforce, this year in 2017 Mold Shields is currently celebrating 20 years of service.
Has it been a smooth road?
Running a business was not easy having an engineering background, I had to learn a lot of business finance in order to do corporate taxes, marketing, where and how to buy and receive material to my place. Over the years I begin to purchase my own machines so I would not have to use my friend’s facility. Oh, I never mentioned how the company owner and I started working together. He taught me how to run these machines to build my product. I taught him about computers, how the Internet works and Quickbooks payroll. I did have some tough times because material continues to rise and I had to start business relationships with China, and Canada.
If you’re going to stay in business you need at least 2 or 3 material suppliers, prices always move with supply and demand, which is probably why I also received a BA in Economics from Northeastern Illinois University, it really helped me to under my own products future demand and cost. At least I thought so, turns out the product is customer driven. With over 48 different sizes we have no idea what to build first. So the customer decides which machine required a shade and what size. So production does not start until the order is placed giving us 2-3 weeks to deliver, keep in mind these products are not sitting on ourselves.
So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Mold Shields story. Tell us more about the business.
Mold Shields is a minority owned and operated company that I started in the basement of my (2) Flat Apartment on the Westside of Chicago about 20 years ago currently family owned and operated.
As for my role, I do everything with the help of my beautiful wife Amarzaya. We manufacture a patented device for the plastic injection molding industry that greatly reduces the amount of waste that generate when parts fall on the floor and become contaminated with dirt and oil from mold release spray our products save the plastic industry thousands of dollars each year.
What sets us apart from the competition is that our products are “Portable” using strong neodymium magnets the unit is easy to mount and starts working right out of the box, UPS driver can be attached it to the Machine and keep going. Can also be moved from various machines depending on the size. We currently have 26 different sizes including replacement component. All repairs are 100% free if any unit does not work regardless of the issue.
Mold Shields has strong relationship with Purdue University Engineering Department with Dr. Yung Shin for research using Laser-Assisted Machining of Ceramics (LAM), having a joint relationship a white paper was submitted to the US Army for “Manufacturing of Ceramic Materials Technology for Weapons Systems” research proposal was submitted with high approval rating however; the 5 million dollars funds were awarded to another university for a Nanotechnology Center.
Mold Shields is also a Defense Contractor CCR No. 1K6U7, having secured a contract over $300k under General Dynamics’s for the Spanner Wrench for the Grenade Launcher obtaining sole source for this item means no-one else can produce.
How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
The plastic industry is looking good in the future with more advance materials being developed for drones, light weight vehicles and future space exploration demanding weight reduction of space crafts.
The automotive industry continues to replace metal with stronger plastic material being incorporated with metal deposits for strength and higher heat resistance. Here at Mold Shields, we are always continuing to improve our operations and looking for ways to improved our products. We are currently in the process of moving another operation in-house. One more way of having control of our product.
- Address: 230 N. 2nd Avenue Villa Park, Il 60181
- Website: www.moldshields.com
- Phone: (708) 983-5931
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Reginald Phillips compliments of Mold Shields, Inc.