Jennifer Behrens Schmidt, president of Atlantic Mold & Machining Corp. and the Sarasota Manatee Area Manufacturers Association, traces her entrepreneurial spirit to the lessons she learned from her parents, both business owners in Germantown, Wis. Schmidt, 35, started learning management skills when she was 12 years old, teaching classes in her mother’s dance studio and observing how her father ran his small manufacturing business. Five years ago, Schmidt and her husband, Brian, founded Atlantic Mold, which is located in a 5,000-square-foot plant in north Venice. They have four employees and annual revenues of nearly $1 million.
What do you manufacture? Steel molds that are used to make plastic components for a diverse group of industries, including medical and surgical instruments. We have about 30 customers and are probably building five to 10 mold projects at any one time. Tervis Tumblers uses our steel molds to make their plastic travel lids.
What brought you to Florida? My parents bought property in Englewood and we started visiting them. Our twin sons, then four years old, were about to start school. We had always talked about how nice it would be to live in a warm climate, and we had a passion to start our own company. It was an easy move; this little region is very similar to the suburbs of the Midwest, and people are very similar to where we came from.
And the manufacturing? Very different. We do have competition here, but only a handful in the region. Florida has tourism and agriculture and less focus on manufacturing.
Your responsibilities? I am the face of the company. I handle customer development and community manufacturing and industrial activities. Brian oversees production and scheduling.
What is your most important task each day? Relationships. I stay on top of all the different projects we have going on with our many different customers.
Biggest lesson learned as boss? I’ve learned to take a step back and not react immediately to any situation. It is always better to consider all aspects of a challenge before you do anything.
How do you hire? We identify our need and what type of person and skill set we need for that position. We have occasionally placed ads online and in newspaper sources. But we more typically go to educational institutions. We tend to do training internally when we hire new employees.
What would it surprise people to know about you? I was a cheerleader in middle school and high school, and at the University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh.