The Faces of Entrepreneurship: Robert Contaldi, Fulmin Industries LLC
Issue:Winter 2015 : Articles
Entrepreneurship isn’t always easy.
Just ask Robert Contaldi, owner of Fulmin Industries LLC, which he founded two years ago. But he does not regret his decision to start that first business – nor his purchase of a second one a year later.
“Every time something gets boxed up and shipped out of here, that’s the real satisfaction,” he said.
Established in June 2012 in Ridgeley, Mineral County, Fulmin Industries LLC provides manufacturing, engineering and prototyping for the aerospace and defense industries. Fulmin International Inc., established in June 2013, provides products and services to assist with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education. The company manufactures products under the BotBrain Company® name www.botbrain.com.
BotBrain offers robotic sets and accessories for the classroom and other settings to reinforce STEM skills. Contaldi’s five-person company makes all the circuit boards and sensors and does all the programming for BotBrain in the same facility.
“We’re enamored with that part of the business,” Contaldi said of the educational product line. “It’s fun, and it’s inspirational.”
Contaldi has drawn on the resources of the Robert C. ByrdInstitute for Advanced Flexible Manufacturing (RCBI) for many years. The technical expertise of the RCBI staff also has contributed to the success of his venture, Contaldi said. He and his employees have trained with and leased production time on RCBI’s state-of-the-art equipment – ranging from more-traditional subtractive manufacturing using computercontrolled laser and waterjet cutters, mills and lathes to revolutionary additive manufacturing with 3D Printers. He has plans to work with RCBI to implement an ISO 9001-based Quality Management system at his business. The modified quality system he puts in place will enable Fulmin Industries to bid on more government and commercial contracts that require quality certification.
“As a person who’s been in business a long time, you can’t know everything nor do you want to know everything,” said Contaldi, who himself is an engineer with an MBA. “RCBI has a plethora of experience and expertise to draw on.”
Contaldi observed that the biggest obstacles in running his own business have involved time and capital: There is never enough of either to accomplish all that he wants to do. He said he is split in “about 90 ways” as he handles the operations, marketing and sales for his company.
He also spends a great deal of time training employees. "We’ll make the investment up-front if the person is willing to learn because having unskilled labor and not having them advance doesn’t really advance our company.”
Contaldi advises individuals who are considering going into business for themselves to make sure they have the commitment of everyone around them, because entrepreneurship isn’t easy.
“It’s tough on the family, and it’s tough on your social life,” he said, “but I love being an entrepreneur. I love making things, and I love creating jobs.”