Layoff provided impetus for Value Plastics’ birth more than 30 years ago
FORT COLLINS – A mechanical engineer who started his own business after he was laid off from a Denver job 30 years ago and his wife and partner have been named Bravo! Entrepreneurs for Fort Collins.
Kent Sampson and his wife, Gloria, owners of Value Plastics Inc. in Fort Collins, started their business in the basement and garage of their home. Gloria Sampson helped with the bookkeeping and took in ironing to help support the family in the early days of the business.
A graduate of the University of Kansas, Kent Sampson moved to Colorado after working briefly in Kansas City for a steel company. In June 1968, he was laid off from his job with C.A. Norgren, a manufacturing company in Denver.
“They closed the department. It was a very big shock and ultimately one of the best things that ever happened to me,” Sampson said.
“They called everybody together and read off the names of the people who were staying. I wasn’t on it, and neither was my boss,” he said.
With three small children at home to support, Sampson began looking for some consulting work . He wasn’t interested in getting another job because he no longer believed in job security.
“I made plastic Plexiglas models,” he said. “I’d been practicing to do some machine work.”
Over time, his business grew in the family’s home in Littleton. In 1975, Value Plastics was incorporated.
Gloria Sampson worked beside her husband over the years handling the financial end of the business.
Originally Sampson did custom work — parts for Hewlett-Packard Co. and parts for Water Pik showerheads. But today, Value Plastics makes miniature hose fittings for surgical tube sets and automation companies. Altogether, it manufactures some 2,200 different products.
“We can ship within an hour,” Sampson said. About 12 percent of production is shipped out of the country, while 25 percent is indirectly shipped internationally.
The tool and dye shop manufactures molds and operates 21 molding machines. In 1996, the company made 60 million parts, he said.
“We sell to all large pharmaceutical companies and many automation companies,” he said.
The company has had 16 percent average growth rate per year. “We never had a losing year, but we had some that weren’t so great,” he said.
“This has been a team effort all the way through,” he said. “Gloria took in ironing to help give me the time to learn the tool and dye business.”
From their home in Littleton, the Sampsons’ business grew so large that they purchased a building in Loveland in 1977 sto accommodate the company’s expansion. But soon the company outgrew that space, too. The building they now occupy in Fort Collins is the ninth site for the company and occupies 41,000 square feet.
In 1981, the Sampsons spun off all the custom work of the business and sold it to an employee. That work represented about 75 percent of the business. At that time, the company had 35 employees.
“We cut back to four people — my wife, daughter, father-in-law and me,” Sampson said.
But Value Plastics was able to replace the gross volume of work in just one year, he said. The reborn company concentrated on hose fittings. “I began to tool new products,” Sampson said.
Currently, Value Plastics employs 35 people.
Gloria Sampson served as treasurer of the company until a few months ago, when she and her husband stepped aside and sold the business to their daughter Vicki and her husband, Mike Rainsberger. However, the Sampsons continue to serve as directors of the business.
Rainsberger said Value Plastics had gross sales of $7.2 million last year with a net income of $2.5 million.
He said that more than 70 percent of the total product is manufactured “lights out” with no one in the plant — a concept the Sampsons perfected.
Over the years, all of the couple’s five children have worked in the company. Value Plastics has an educational-assistance program for employees and pays for books and tuition for workers who want to study business or technical subjects.
Sampson is proud of the working conditions for his employees. “We have windows for everybody, even production,” he said. “We spend more time at work than at any other place. We want people to want to come to work.”
In her spare time, Gloria Sampson is a seamstress and also likes to make quilts and embroider. Kent Sampson, inspired by one of his sons, took up flying at the age of 48. He now owns several airplanes, including a Motor Glide, a couple of Cessnas and a helicopter.
“My son got me interested in it. We’ve had fun with aviation,” he said.
Last December, the company took delivery of its corporate jet, a Citation. Sampson selected the number 668 to commemorate the date when he was laid off from his job and started his own business.