A Start-up Machining Business

By Lloyd Graff

They say tough times are the best ones to start a business, and Zach Peterson hopes to build his new machining company, Sodak Machining Inc., near Rapid City, South Dakota, out of the ashes of the recession.

Zach is 28, with 13 years of being around machine shops. He grew up in Gillette, Wyoming, where his father mines coal. He took high school shop classes, did a two-year tech college stint, and has worked on lathes and mills all along the way.

He started up in a pole barn outside of Rapid City, about the same time his wife became pregnant. His first machine was a Hwacheon CNC lathe with a 12” chuck, manufactured in 1997. He then picked up a Mazak vertical machining center with the help of a Twin Pities dealer, new in 1998.

He had $20,000 in personal seed money to start and went to a local bank for instruction on how to acquire an SBA loan. He said the paper work was amazingly easy to navigate. The bank steered him to a consultant who helped him write a business plan with projections. In a short period of time he had $50,000 for capital investment and a $95,000 line of credit.

He has found clients by knocking on doors and using some of the contacts he had in the coal and oil industry in Wyoming. Business is growing. He hopes to acquire a larger vertical mill soon. His wife has helped in the office and the plant, but with the baby imminent, she’s about ready for some maternity leave.

Zach was proud to tell me that his first non-family employee was starting work on Presidents Day.

Question: What advice would you give to Zach Peterson?

Mount Rushmore is located 23 miles from from Rapid City, South Dakota

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2 thoughts on “A Start-up Machining Business

  1. Betty T. DaCruz

    I would tell Zach that he should be prepared to work harder than he has ever worked in his life but it will also be the most rewarding thing he could possibly do. I would tell him to push ahead despite obstacles and hard times. Slowly but surely he will continue to make progress through his love of his work and his focus on quality and good service. Make decisions slowly but confidently .With the help and support of his wife he will be proud of his accomplishments and they will do well.
    Best wishes to Zach and his wife and their new business!

  2. Brian "Snooty" Hoff

    I am proud of Zach & his decision to pursue manufacturing. He’s one of the thousands of small businesses that keep the economy moving.
    My advice would be:
    1. Find mentors and listen well
    2. Network or hire someone that has the gift of networking.
    3. Realize what you’re good at and focus on that. Find someone else to take care of the other things.
    Good luck to you!


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