We had the good fortune of connecting with Katie Hedrick and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Katie, we’d love to start by asking you about lessons learned. Is there a lesson you can share with us?
The most important lesson I have learned from running my two businesses these past 5+ years is that more often than not, really difficult times or something that initially looks like it could ruin you, actually turn out to be blessing in disguise. Most of the situations that have presented as “potentially catastrophic”, I later realized were just the impetus I needed in order to make a big change, to take a chance or to be more profitable and successful. Humans rarely learn important lessons from easy or ‘good’ times. When things are profitable and running smoothly, humans tend to coast more often than not. However, when you start to coast, I think you tend to stop growing, stop taking as many risks, stop innovating. The unfortunate fact, is that most people learn and grow more during times of high stress and pain is the swiftest teacher of all; be it physical, mental or emotional pain. Pain can get the point across in a hurry. If I were to think about my most difficult experiences with both businesses, experiences that could have easily ended the company, one hundred percent of the time that intense stress and fear led to me making a fundamental change in either how I ran the business, a necessary change in a core process or sometimes even changed my perspective on the business as a whole. . . and each of those changes led to myself and the company being more resilient, more innovative and more profitable by far.
It’s been said that “good” is the enemy of GREAT and I believe that to be true. Getting too comfortable in business and in life, feels wonderful in a lot of ways, but sometimes I think it can lead you to stop challenging yourself and stop looking for ways to better yourself or your business. I used to think that stress and fear and ‘bad things happening’ were the enemy and to be avoided, but after a while, I realized that a certain amount of stress keeps you sharp and alert and reaching for more. These days, I try to see that daily stress of the business as a helpful friend, and not an enemy to be feared and avoided.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
Having been a serial entrepreneur and professional photographer for over 20 years, had you told me six years ago that I would own an electronics manufacturing company along with a specialty staffing company and be responsible for 24 employees, I would have said you were crazy! Yet here I am, albeit sometimes with a feeling of shock and disbelief, still going strong after all these years with hopefully, many more to come. Growing from a one person outfit (my photography studio) where the focus is on creativity and where you have influence over the majority of the process, to an extremely complex business with a lot of moving parts, many of which lay outside of your direct control, means the stakes are infinitely higher and it’s been an significant adjustment to say the least! Six years ago, a rather bizarre opportunity fell into mine and my then boyfriend’s lap (now my husband). Saying yes to it was very high risk and a complete departure from what we were both doing at the time, me being a photographer and he, being an operations manager for a large commercial furniture manufacturing company. It would also be an opportunity for the both of us to play on a bigger field and to in essence, learn a whole different game. Whether we succeeded or failed, it would at least be an adventure, so we said yes and leapt straight in. Truthfully, it was a steep learning curve for us both and I’m not really sure how we survived those first two punishing years. The wonderful team at the Longmont Economic Development Partnership, key industry mentors and forging strategic partnerships with some of our competitors has all played a big part. You know the old saying: “necessity is the mother of invention”? Well, that definitely holds true when you tell yourself there is no other way except to keep moving forward, drawing deeply on your inner strength and that of those around you whilst trusting that you’ll just always find a way to succeed. Learning the electronics contract manufacturing business from the ground up has been a love/hate endeavor. Had I given it more thought, I would not have necessarily picked this line of work. Learning to be comfortable with those things outside of my control, trusting the team I’d assembled and keeping the focus on improving all the parts I CAN control, has personally helped me develop more, not only as a business owner and manager but as a person in general. Learning to delegate and trust others to do their job well, each taking charge of and pride in their respective roles has been a real challenge for me, particularly with my “one man show” history and truthfully I’m still working on that every day. I’m so lucky to have a wonderful (and patient) partner and a group of very loyal, highly skilled employees who have been the core of our success and I am grateful for each and every one of them.
Our electronics manufacturing business focuses on quick turn prototyping and small to medium run PCBA (Printed Circuit Board Assembly) as well as design services and full box builds. We identified a void in the industry and grew a niche for ourselves because larger CM’s (contract manufacturers) aren’t geared to do very small or quick turn projects whereas our flexible, nimble approach not only allows us to take on this type of work, but to also excel at it. We work with a wide variety of customers, from start-ups and young companies still finding their feet, all the way up to larger, established enterprise clients who need thousands of units per month and demand consistent quality and reliability. I believe our unique approach, dedicated team, wide range of services and production volumes are some of the things that helps set Colorado Tech Shop apart from other contract manufacturing companies.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I wouldn’t want to miss a chance to take someone to my favorite breakfast/brunch spot in the city: Revelry Kitchen on Tennyson St. I’m a big foodie, always looking for the next delicious meal and Revelry consistently amazes me with their inventive brunch options! I would want to take them into Evergreen (where I lived for many years) to walk around and visit the quaint shops, especially my favorite bakery, Alpine Pastries, near the lake at the center of town. From there, it would be great to take a hike through Three Sisters Park and hike up to a picturesque view that overlooks hundreds of acres of forest with mountain peaks in the distance. I would need to drag them to one of the great Escape Rooms, that Denver has, as well as the super fun indoor PuttPutt place Urban Putt, where we would wager our dinner on who emerges as the winner. For dinner, keeping it local, I would head to the Ninth Door for amazing Tapas and Spanish wines. If we were going to travel a bit (and it happened to be winter), I would need to take them to Frisco, my favorite little mountain town. If they like to snowboard then it would be on to Copper Mountain or Keystone and if they preferred to stay off the slopes then we could have a lot of fun on the big sledding hill at the Frisco Adventure Center. If they REALLY wanted some adventure, I would book a 4 star dinner and overnight stay in a yurt at 11,000 feet, at the Tennessee Pass Cookhouse in Leadville. If we’ve already gone to Leadville, we may as well go a little farther to Glenwood Springs and take a soak in the amazing Iron Mountain Hot Springs. Strawberry Park Hot Springs in Steamboat is my all time favorite spot but Iron Mountain would be a close second.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My friend and mentor Heidi Hostetter deserves a lot of kudos for always coming through for us, not only on the business side but even in personal matters. Her incredible intelligence, creativity, competence and amazing ability to create something out of nothing, when the situation calls for that, is nothing short of miraculous. She continues to be a strong foundation for myself, my business, everyone in her life and the manufacturing community as a whole. She consistently does the work of 4 people, yet never fails to be there for a quick pick me up , whenever someone needs it. I wish everyone was lucky enough to have a Heidi in their corner!