Edie Ramstad started her chain maille business, Weave Got Maille, in 2012.
Edie Ramstad’s motto is “Go big or go home.” But that wasn’t always the case.
When the Ada, Minnesota, woman started her chain maille business in 2012, Weave Got Maille, the goldsmith-by-trade thought it would be a nice way to keep busy a few hours a week.
In her five-year business plan, Ramstad wrote that she hoped to eventually ramp up production of the jump rings used to make jewelry and chain maille to 1,000 a week.
Less than four years later, the business is producing over a million a day. And she’s not stopping there. Ramstad recently launched a second business, Premier Anodizing, which will enable her to expand Weave Got Maille’s customer base.
The business was already filling the high-end jewelry niche with the jump rings it makes from enameled copper and other precious metals, but Ramstad knew there was opportunity to grow. She did some research and learned that 80 percent of people starting out with chain maille use anodized aluminum rings because they’re lightweight and inexpensive. Of those, about 70 percent will eventually transition to using rings made of finer metals like enameled copper, sterling silver or 14-carat-gold.
“What I realized is that we were missing out on a whole group of people by not carrying that metal,” she says. “We would not be taking away from our current customers because people don’t go backwards on the scale. They go forward.”
“What we were missing,” she continues, “was a chance to develop a really good relationship with customers when they’re just starting out, to help them and teach them to do what they want to do.”
Building a Job Shop
Ramstad initially tried using job shops to anodize the aluminum rings, but she ran into several problems. There are very few anodized aluminum job shops in the country that do small or medium jobs. Ramstad says once the shops get going, most obtain large government or Boeing contracts.
She tried a few, but most had color consistency issues. Others had delivery problems.
So, Ramstad set out to do the process internally. She read several books on anodizing and noticed one common thread: Most were written by a man named Bob Probert. Ramstad tracked him down in North Carolina and convinced him to consult on the project.
The quick growth of Weave Got Maille through her website taught Ramstad a valuable lesson: She knew she did not want to invest in a process that would handle what the company needed today. Instead, she wanted to invest in the future.
“All of our expensive equipment is two times bigger than it needs to be so the only thing we would have to change, if we suddenly got busy enough that we needed something bigger, would be our tanks,” Ramstad says.
She also ordered the larger equipment so the company could do work for other manufacturers.
“It’s a very expensive process to set up. It takes major training and it’s not something that you could just run,” Ramstad says. “Like when we heat our tanks up, it takes four hours before we can start working on anything. So, we use a lot of heat. A lot of electricity. I’ll be honest, our meter spins. It’s not something you would just do for your own product.”
Since Premier Anodizing opened for business earlier this month, General Manager Dean Knutson says they have been contacted by representatives of companies that produce ID tags, tools and car parts who are interested in doing business.
“And we’re not even up and really running yet,” Knutson says. “This could get pretty big.”
Ramstad says their tanks are capable of anodizing pieces as large as 3 × 3 × 3 feet. They have 36 organic dyes, and she hopes to add dozens more soon.
She also wants to add more employees. The two companies employ 14 people and she hopes to add five more in the near future.
For information, visit premieranodizing.com or weavegotmaille.com. Angie Wieck is a writer with The Forum in Fargo, North Dakota. Printed with permission.
Originally published in the October 2016 issue.
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