As owner and manager of Pyramid Mold & Tool (Rancho Cucamonga, CA), Steve Hoare has faced his share of challenges. He started his company a few years before the industry faced hard times in 2001, and when the going got tough, he restructured and rebuilt Pyramid Mold from the ground up—and thus has been honored as SPE’s 2006 Moldmaker of the Year from the SPE Moldmaking and Mold Design Division.
Although Hoare was exposed to moldmaking at a young age, it didn’t occur to him that it would become a career choice. Born in Canada, his family moved to Southern California when he was an infant, and he was raised there. His next door neighbor—who owned a moldmaking shop—used to race NASCAR when it was still called Grand National, and Hoare spent a lot of time in his mold shop and attending stock car races. “Due to his influence, after I graduated from high school I decided to build race motors for cars and boats for a company in Pomona,” Hoare recalls. “After awhile I realized that it was more a hobby than a career.”
Hoare decided a career change was in order. Remembering his neighbor’s success with his own moldmaking operation, Hoare decided to apply the machining knowledge he gleaned from his motor building days to the moldmaking industry. “I got a job locally as an apprentice moldmaker in 1990 did well at it, and things started to take off from there.”
Earning a Living
After two years as an apprentice, Hoare spent four years as a journeyman moldmaker at another local facility before deciding to strike out on his own—selling his boat and all of its auxiliary equipment to start Satisfaction Molds in late 1994. “It was just going to be a hobby where I would build some tooling for moldmakers here and there,” Hoare recalls. “I didn’t intend for it to be a full-fledged business. I bought a CNC and a grinder, opened up shop in a small corner of my brother’s woodworking business, and was a one-man operation for a while. I would work at my full-time job during the day and then work into the evenings and weekends at my shop. Then I ended up buying an EDM and got some aerospace work. After I realized I was working even more than before, I decided it was time to go full-time into moldmaking, and try and make a go of it with a partner.”
Within several months, Hoare felt the time was right to sell Satisfaction to his partner, and in 1995 he started Pyramid Mold & Tool with four employees. “I had to start from scratch and build a new customer base,” he says. This time, he focused on plastic injection molds for the medical, electrical connectors and irrigation industries.
In 1997, Pyramid Mold moved into a new facility and Hoare purchased some more machines. “I went a little crazy,” he admits. “We had some pretty rapid growth: too much new equipment and 30 employees. Then things started to go bad—partly because of the economy and partly because we grew too fast. We had a really rough time and nearly went out of business in 2001.”
Perseverance Pays Off
During a time when many moldmaking facilities were closing, Hoare managed to keep Pyramid Mold afloat. “After some restructuring and downsizing, we managed to survive,” Hoare notes. “It was a really hard time for us. We owed a lot of money, which we have since paid back. Today, I am happy to report we employ 38 people and do about $5 million worth of work a year.”
To that end, Pyramid Mold purchased a 31,000-square foot building in August of 2005, and added 3R automation and robotics to its equipment repertoire so the company could start delivering higher cavitation molds. Hoare also added a two-man sales crew to expand its customer base. “Although we are a full-service shop—providing new tooling, engineering services and repairs—our focus is on OEMs that require multi-cavity, close tolerance tooling.”
Hoare has learned many life lessons along his moldmaking journey. “Grow in a controlled fashion and your hard work will always pay off!” he stresses. “Don’t get ahead of yourself by being overly aggressive. If you take on too much, too quickly, you are going to hurt yourself. You don’t want to get too much work in at one time, then deliver late and risk losing those customers you worked so hard to get. Take care of your customers with service and delivery. You have to know what your capabilities are.”
Walking the walk and talking the talk has led Hoare down the right path. “I have learned so much over the years,” he notes. “I started as a moldmaker. Now I am probably more of a businessman than a moldmaker. I’ve definitely grown as a businessman. In the early years this was a challenge, but after my ups and downs, I feel pretty seasoned. I have tried to build and structure this company with knowledgeable people with good moral principles and rely on others to help run the company.”
Hoare shares his knowledge by immersing himself in the industry and is actively involved in the AMBA, SPE, SPI and NTMA. He was humbled by the experience of being nominated for his award. “I was blown away by the phone call that informed us I had won,” he notes. “To be honest, I really didn’t know what to say except that I was honored. Lots of our customers called to congratulate me—and the company.”
Down the road, Hoare sees Pyramid Mold surviving any curve balls the industry throws its way. “We will continue to grow the business based on good ethics and unparalleled customer service,” he states. “We also will continue to invest in cutting-edge technology and automation in order to remain competitive. And, we will always listen to the needs of our customers and adjust to their ever-changing requirements.” Given Hoare’s proven track record, Pyramid Mold is in it for the long haul.