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Meet David Shields of Component Surfaces

Today we’d like to introduce you to David Shields.

David, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I started the business in 2004 after having worked for 20 years as a chemical process engineer for several manufacturers. I had worked with some interesting gold plating technologies and was convinced there were many small manufacturers who could benefit from this as a service. Unable to secure financing for a few iterations of successively smaller investment business plans, I eventually financed the startup myself for less than $75,000.

Taking full advantage of eBay and Quickbooks Online, I set up a plating capability in a subleased 1,000 sf. suite within an existing plating business in Rancho Bernardo. The owner was generous with a gentleman’s agreement that allowed my business to start up quickly.

After operating for about 6 months, I hired my first employee, a quality inspector and then added 4 or 5 more employees over the next year. By 2007, I had outgrown the small facility and moved into 6,500 sf in a brand new industrial facility in Poway. Revenues had grown to about $50,000 a month, we were profitable and there were several new products in development. For this move I invested about $300,000, taking a second mortgage on my home.

Revenues grew to $1 million in 2010 and then $2 million by 2015. We expect to grow to $4 million by the end of this year and employ close to 50 employees including a strong engineering, production, quality and accounting staff. Our products have grown to include many different types of plating and the majority of our revenues are now being generated by selling components themselves rather than just the plating services.

Has it been a smooth road?
With the exception of periods where cash flow management has been a significant challenge, the business has been smoother than I would expect given the dynamic economic challenges over the past 10 years. Our customer base is strong, our products are in demand and we have put together an excellent team and some very effective systems.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
We specialize in custom-developed plating processes for high-performance materials in the semiconductor, telecommunications, aerospace and medical markets. We have developed unique capabilities for plating directly onto difficult materials including ceramic, Teflon, and refractory metals like tungsten, molybdenum and a variety of composite materials.

As a company, we are proud of our ability to develop unique processes to address difficult plating requirements and to bring those processes up to steady production rates with high-quality results at an affordable price. What sets us apart is our interest in developing unique manufacturing sequences and to have the flexibility to implement them quickly as required by customer production demands.

Is our city a good place to do what you do?
Oddly enough, San Diego is an excellent place for a business like ours. I say this because California has a well-deserved reputation for environmental regulation and the plating industry has a well-deserved reputation for environmental challenges.

To be successful here, our business has to be tougher on ourselves than the regulations require and to anticipate where the regulations are headed so that we can stay in front of them. This just requires knowing our business well and considering these challenges in every decision we make. The availability of strong vendor support in San Diego is critical. We have access to environmental management suppliers here that make it very easy to run these operations responsibly.

I do recommend San Diego as a great location to start a business. There is a broad and educated workforce here and people generally like to stay in San Diego given the choice. Businesses are fortunate for that.

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