Business owner Ewerton Borges got his start in the plastics industry with a broom.
Nearly 20 years ago, the Brazilian immigrant was hired by a Farmingdale company to sweep its production floor. Three months ago, he bought his own plastics manufacturing company, which he calls Spectra Polymers & Colors Inc., also in Farmingdale.
He bought the company with $60,000 of his own money and $500,000 in financing from the previous owner, Alicia Kolis, who is now the new company’s director of operations.
In the short time Borges, 39, has been at the helm, he said the company has gone from losing $40,000 a month to posting a profit of $29,000 a month in August. He has added three part-time employees to the eight workers the company had.
How did a 21-year-old who arrived in this country in 1999 knowing no English and nothing about the plastics industry, come to own his own company?
“The secret was very simple,” Borges said. “Engage with people and try to meet and exceed expectations, whether it was a colleague that needed a hand or whether it was my boss who needed to develop a product or a sales guy.”
And persistence also helps, he said: Last month he made 395 calls to existing customers and those he knew from his former employer.
“Just knock on doors to get customers,” he said. “Ninety-nine of them might close, but at some point one will open, and that is all you need.”
With a bachelor’s degree in business and commerce earned in Brazil and a black belt in tae kwon do, Borges came to this country to help a friend launch a karate franchise. But after his friend’s divorce, the plan fell through. Another acquaintance who worked at Amco Plastic Materials Inc. in Farmingdale said he was leaving the job and told Borges he would introduce him to his boss. Borges got the job sweeping the production floor.
He was always cleaning while others “goofed off,” he said. He also asked about how to operate production machines. So when a machine operator announced he was leaving, Borges asked to be trained to replace him, and he was.
He said he wasn’t reluctant to speak up in meetings, and once challenged a marketing idea of a boss. The boss liked his idea.
“He was impressed that I took a shot at something I wasn’t supposed to, but I was confident,” he said.
He was later promoted to production manager. And when the plant manager retired, though the company was initially looking outside to fill the position, Borges was offered the job.
Then in 2011, Amco was sold to a European company, he said, and Borges was picked to help manage six plants in five states. He relocated to Michigan with his family, but he was on the road for about 38 weeks each year. After about four years, he resigned and returned to Long Island. For the next two years he had two jobs, including one at a plastics business in Georgia that he quit in January to return to Long Island.
With Amco closed — the European company closed it in 2013, Borges saw an opportunity to fill a void.
He called his former boss and mentor at Amco to talk to him about buying equipment and starting a company. The ex-boss told him about the original Spectra, which he said was struggling.
Borges went to talk to Kolis, the owner, who bought the company in 2015, after working for 25 years for the woman who established it in 1983, she said.
Borges told her he wanted to buy an extruder machine, which turns plastic pellets into strands. At one point he asked her, “What else is for sale?”
She answered, “What would you like to buy?”
“An hour later, I purchased the company,” he said.
Kolis, 53, said Borges impressed her.
“He just was very enthusiastic,” she said. “He has a lot of contacts. I felt he could bring the business to the place I thought it needed to go.”
The extruder machine forms part of the process of turning plastic pellets, which Spectra purchases, into strands that are mixed with colors and cooled. They are then recut into nibs and sold to Spectra customers who mold the colored plastics into such things as lipstick cases, food containers and toys.
Borges sought the help of the Small Business Development Center at Farmingdale State College to help him write a business plan, forecast sales and gather the documentation needed to buy the business.
“He listened. He allowed the information to sink in, and he took action,” said Jason Kohl, the SBDC certified business adviser who worked with Borges. “That is kind of the secret to success.”
The original purchase money, which bought Borges the company’s customer base and assets, including a library of 35,000 color variations, has allowed him to stabilize the business and bring back some inactive customers, he said. The company has about 85 customers, he said. He also has been able to reestablish accounts in Poland and Mexico. And he is working with a technology company that provides chips to casino companies with additives that help prevent counterfeit versions. The previous Spectra largely focused on color plastics for cosmetics display, he said.
Now he wants to further automate the production equipment to make it more efficient. So he has applied for a $100,000 loan from the Small Business Administration and is awaiting a decision.
He reflected on his journey to owning his own business in this country.
“I really wanted to do this for myself, after 20 years from sweeping the floor to running the machines, to fixing them to learning the management side of the business,” he said.
And he added, “I am living the American dream.”
At a glance
Company: Spectra Polymers & Color Inc., Farmingdale
Owner: Ewerton Borges
Employees: 11, including three part-time workers
Income: Went from loss of $40,000 a month to a profit of $29,000 in September