The Small Business Development Center, located at Central Oregon Community College, is a first stop for many budding entrepreneurs in the region. However, the SBDC also provides valuable resources for existing businesses as they grow. Check out the following success story on Bend’s ArcLight Dynamics for an example of the wealth of services SBDC clients can access:
SBDC Success Story: ArcLight Dynamics
Scott Cunningham had a simple idea: he wanted to carve realistic replicas of mountains. But that simple idea proved anything but simple to accomplish.
As he began exploring the project, a friend told him about CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machines which could carve any shape he dreamt up. After researching CNC machines online, Scott purchased a CNC router from a vendor, but the quality turned out to be really poor. This led him to rebuild the entire drive system using surplus parts he found on ebay. Once he fixed that initial machine, he realized that he could also build bigger and better CNC routers on his own – and ArcLight Dynamics was born.
So in 2009, he started with two prototypes. Out of the two prototypes, one stood out as a potentially viable product — one which looks strikingly similar to the machines they sell today. But along with the construction of the initial tables, Scott also reached out to the Central Oregon SBDC and started the Launch class. This class helped prepare him for not only setting up the initial structure, but also the details in taking a concept and turning it into a business.
Scott took that knowledge and began production of the tables. ArcLight Dynamics tables are complete packages, which means that all someone needs to have for a very functional cutting system are standard components. And while this may seem like the norm, that is far from the case, and another area in which a focus on the end customer from the outset has paid off.
As the company began to grow, Scott continued his engagement with the local SBDC by enrolling in the Small Business Management program. He gained deeper insights into running the day to day operations of the business, since as most entrepreneurs are wont to do, he was deeply focused on the actual development of the products as opposed to the high level management.
With a renewed focus, the ArcLight Dynamics team saw the biggest opportunity for their tables within small to medium size shops and businesses, and to gain traction within these verticals they had to be very conscious of the pricing. By keeping all of the parts and production in-house, they have been able to not only control costs, but also maintain high standards.
ArcLight Dynamics has seen 40% year-over-year growth, which can, in many ways, be directly attributed to the high level of craftsmanship put into each table, along with the high level of customer service. One sector in particular, custom automotive, has really seen an uptick in the adoption and usage of CNC tables. Scott believes the adoption of CNC tables in these smaller shops, not just those focused on automotive work, can be traced back to a combination of things.
“The quality of cut that can be achieved with a plasma cutter has greatly improved in the 6 years, while at the same time, the cost of CNC technology had dropped in price. People have also become comfortable with running computer controlled equipment. They have come to the realization that they need this technology in their shops if they want to compete in the marketplace.”
ArcLight Dynamics’ leadership team has continued their complete business lifecycle engagement with the SBDC by participating in the Scale Oregon program. This program has helped Scott manage not only the rapid YOY growth, but more importantly, create systems within the company that have reduced many inefficiencies.
As the company continues to grow at a high clip, one of the biggest challenges facing ArcLight Dynamics will be finding a large enough space to rent or buy to not constrain growth. But taking on challenges like these are where Scott and his team feel most comfortable. They have created a great product, culture, and customer support system, and are more poised to seize on opportunities as opposed to slowing down due to challenges. Scott also has advice for other founders about to take the leap.
“Don’t hesitate, take bigger risks, and don’t be afraid to invest more in your company.”
To learn more about Central Oregon’s Small Business Development Center, go to: www.cocc.edu/sbdc