The Faces of Entrepreneurship: Allen Mayo, Rubberlite
Issue:Winter 2015 : Articles
“We started out in 1986, with two employees and no customers,” says J. Allen Mayo, president and CEO of Rubberlite Inc.
Today, the company has 140 employees and the products from its plant on Huntington’s Guyan Avenue are sold around the world — to more than 1,200 customers in 43 countries. The company manufactures high-tech engineered rubber and plastic foams that go into an almost unbelievable array of uses – from shoes and bras to cars and trucks, and even the Space Shuttle.
Rubberlite was founded by Mayo, who got his start in the industry working at American National Rubber in Ceredo.
“I started working at American National Rubber straight out of high school and continued there while I was going to Marshall University,” Mayo explains. “I worked there for 10 years, then took a job in Cleveland, Ohio, where I was general manager for a small startup company. After a couple of years I got homesick, so I moved my family back home. I had built up the company in Cleveland and thought I could do the same for a company of my own. My hometown seemed a good place to do it.”
Mayo put a business plan together and obtained a Small Business Administration (SBA) loan. Then, with help from the city’s Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, he set up shop in an old building formerly occupied by a Corbin garmet factory. Mayo credits former Mayor Robert R. Nelson with helping the company obtain the CDBG funding.
The original Rubberlite operation occupied 8,000 square feet. Today, the company occupies a complex of buildings with a total of approximately 250,000 square feet.
When completed, an expansion now under construction will bring the company’s total square footage to more than 300,000.
“Some people questioned why I would set up my business in Huntington,” Mayo says. “Something they failed to realize is that we were just a day’s drive or less from most of the markets we served at the time. Today, of course, much of our business is international.” The company has strong sales in Canada, Mexico, China and Europe. Last year it opened a sales office in Munich, Germany.
Mayo takes special pride in the fact that, while China has flooded the U.S. market with many products, Rubberlite has been able to buck that trend and do a steady business selling its products in China. “The Asian foam manufacturers have not been able to duplicate the performance of some of our products.”
Rubberlite makes no finished products. Rather it makes materials that go into products created by other companies in a lengthy list of industries, including footwear, automotive, electronics, medical and health care, sporting goods, aviation and aerospace.
Mayo says he believes that diversity of markets has been an important factor in the company’s success. If there’s a downturn in one market, there’s generally enough growth in another market to make up the difference.