The Toughest Plater in America
SEE THE VIDEO: KMG Metal Finishing’s Kim Bossley is a plater, and a survivor after losing her shop and suffering through an often-fatal illness.
KMG Metal Finishing owners Kim and Mike Bossley have been through a lot in the past year, more than most people endure in a lifetime. Two lifetimes, maybe.
The Longmont, Colorado, residents lost their plating shop in the fall of 2013 through a natural disaster, then almost lost it again when thugs destroyed some of their new equipment just as they were getting back on their feet in a new shop.
“It was a $15,000 chiller we paid for out of our own pocket and had delivered, and they destroyed it to get $42 in copper,” Kim says. “If they needed the money, or if they needed food, we would have given it to them. They just had to ask. But don’t destroy our business and my employees’ lives.”
In a span of a few weeks, the Bossleys rode an emotional rollercoaster. Their business was flooded and destroyed. Then, when they found a new building and were hurrying to get things up and running, thieves pulled the rug out from under them.
Yet their biggest challenge was still to come. Kim was battling an often-fatal disease, one that sometimes forced her to rest on a cot in her office between helping Mike with anodizing jobs and delivering parts to customers.
“Kim’s gone through a lot,” says Mike, who began working for the plating shop in 2007 after a career in the plastics industry. “But here we are. That’s saying something.”
Flash Flood Destroys Anodizing Shop
We’ll start with a flash flood that hit Colorado last year. Lives were lost, homes destroyed, and businesses’ precious inventory and equipment left unusable. Some businesses never re-opened their doors.
The flood came after almost 20 inches of rain fell in Colorado during one week last September. KMG Metal Finishing wasn’t in a flood plain, so it never carried flood insurance.
The flood waters were rising faster than anyone expected, and the Bossleys had just one thought on their mind as they saw watched the water flow up their street and into their shop: they both wanted to get the barrels of chemicals out of their plant so they wouldn’t contaminate the water. Kim and Mike tried to sneak past police, who had ordered evacuations because of the raging waters.
“The police caught us trying to get into my plant, and we tried to explain why we needed to get in there and save those barrels,” Kim says, tearing up as she tells her tale. “Okay, I can live with losing our shop and everything we’ve worked for, but we couldn’t live with myself if those chemicals got into the waterway. That would be too much to have that over my head.”
Caught and ordered to leave, they tried again, only to be caught once more. But this time they managed to move the barrels to higher parts of the shop. When the water eventually rushed in, it destroyed thousands of dollars of screen printing equipment that the Bossleys used in their finishing operations. But not a single chemical was washed away, because they had pushed and pulled those barrels away from danger themselves, convinced it was the right thing to do.
“They could arrest me if they wanted, and they were about to,” Kim says. “But so be it.”
Robbed by Thieves
When the flood waters finally receded and the clouds gave way to the usual gorgeous blue skies over the Rocky Mountains, all that was left of KMG Metal Finishing was mud, debris and heartache. The screen printing equipment was totaled, although they were able to salvage most of their anodizing equipment.
The damage to the Longmont area and Greater Denver was devastating. Torrential rains and flooding caused eight deaths and pushed 11,000 people out of their homes.
Luckily for KMG and hundreds of other businesses in the area, local governments quickly realized that if they didn’t step up and help the businesses reopen their doors, they too, would be hemorrhaging from lost tax revenues.
The City of Longmont and the Longmont Area Economic Council helped KMG find new space up the road—and on higher ground—in a facility on Sherman Drive. Although most of the company’s screen printing equipment was lost, by October, KMG managed to move the anodizing lines it purchased when Kim started the company nine years earlier.
Mike went to work getting the shop ready, but it was costly and time-consuming. New electrical wires needed to be run; plumbing needed to be installed. The lines had to be set up again, and equipment moved in. Thankfully, Mike’s expertise in these areas helped get the operation up and running as quickly as possible.
“It was great to get the building so quickly, but it wasn’t ready to run a finishing line,” he says. “We had to move as fast as we could, but we still needed to get the items installed and inspected for the permits.”
They hired a semi-truck to move the tanks and equipment, including a new $15,000 chilling unit they purchased to help cool water at the new plant. The next morning, the Bossleys arrived at the plant and saw that the truck and equipment had been broken into and all the copper wiring had been stolen. Worse was the fact that the damage the criminals did getting to the wires made the chiller unrepairable. While insurance did cover the cost of replacing the chiller, the Bossleys couldn’t open their plating shop until they got a new system in place.
“We thought we would be down a short period of time because of the move, something like two weeks, which is doable under the circumstances,” Kim says. “But with no chiller, we were out eight weeks. Eight weeks of no work is almost back-breaking.”
Then again, it has never been an easy road for Kim Bossley, who decided to start her finishing business in 2004 after working for her father’s machining company for many years.
“He was sending all this work out to be finished, and it came to me that maybe I could start my own business and anodize parts,” she says. “My dad encouraged me to do it, but it was up to me to make it work.”
As risky as opening your own business was at the time, Bossley was also a single mother of a 2-year-old son and an 8-year-old daughter. She had very little experience in finishing, but knew all about hard work from her father. That was enough to get her started.
She purchased a passivation line from a company that was going out of business and hired one of her father’s retired salesmen to help get new customers to supplement the work coming in from her father’s business.
A problem soon arose, however. Most of the machine shops she and the salesman were calling on were competitors of her father’s machining business. And they weren’t too excited to be working with someone so close to their competition. Kim decided to move away from her original location in Denver and set up shop in Longmont, about 45 minutes north.
To say the process of starting and then moving the business was difficult is an understatement. But Kim was doing it with just three employees, while raising two children, putting in long hours and often making parts deliveries and even manning the phones herself.
Things got much better when she met and then married Mike, who joined KMG in 2007 and has been instrumental in running the anodizing lines, working with customers and bringing in new business.
Growing the Shop
“No little girl grows up wanting to be the owner of a plating shop,” she says. “I knew I could run the business myself. It was hard, there’s no question. And being a mom, too, was difficult. But I had great people with me, and we had great customers to work with.”
About a year after starting the plating shop, Bossley bought Precision Silk Screening Co. in Longmont, a company that had been around for 25 years. She started adding new plating processes, such as nickel, to her facility to accommodate her silk screening customers’ needs. In 2007, they purchased the screen printing business next door, NEO Graphics, so they could start producing signs, shirts, stickers and other textile-printed items.
“It was a great fit to the business,” she says. “Things were really going great.”
But on the personal side, Kim’s health was another matter. She found herself tired and feeling rundown a lot. Attributing it to the stress of running a shop and raising two small children, she shrugged off the aches and pains.
Things got worse as the symptoms became more obvious: decreased appetite, fatigue, nausea, muscle and joint pains. In 2005, her doctor diagnosed it as a Hepatitis C virus, which Kim says she received through a blood transfusion when she was born. In fact, her mother—the first person in the U.S. to give birth after a kidney transplant—also had been infected with Hepatitis C at the same time.
Sadly, because drug treatments for Hepatitis C would have damaged her mother’s transplanted kidney, she could not receive the proper treatments, and eventually passed away from the disease in 2006.
Felled by Illness
Kim was diagnosed with one of the most severe stages of Hepatitis C, and she felt it every day she went to work. With Mike running the finishing lines, she worked through the pain and the illness, but in 2010 it hit her like a sledgehammer.
“Some days were indescribable,” she says. “The work had to be done, but how I felt, I knew I was very sick. I even brought a bed into my office at work, just so I could lie down for a few minutes in between jobs or delivering parts or whatever needed to be done.”
By the time she became extremely ill, Kim found it even harder to work.
“Having Mike there to help me during the roughest times was so incredible,” Bossley says. “I don’t know what I would have done without him to keep things going. He brings a lot to our shop.”
While there is medication that can help most Hepatitis C patients, those in advanced stages like Bossley need additional help through experimental treatments, which can cost as a much as $40,000 a month.
During the deluge that wiped out the Bossley’s business last fall, Kim received news that she was one of six in her area that had qualified to take part in a promising experimental drug program.
So it was during the rain and flooding that Bossley started her treatment—a pill that was supposed to knock the Hepatitis C virus out of her system. In the blood sample drawn before she took the first pill, the “viral load” in her system was almost 13 million parts. After two days of treatment, the results were miraculous: just 756 parts. Five days later, it was down to 214. After a week, the doctors could not detect the virus in her system at all. She will stay on the drug for a total of 48 weeks.
Where she normally had to rest or nap every afternoon in her office, Kim now has enough energy to work the shop, talk to customers and grow their business. She says her energy level is higher than it has ever been.
She tears up when she explains the results—as does anyone within earshot who has heard her story. But Bossley does not necessarily cry tears of joy for being essentially cured of the disease; instead they are for knowing that so many others with Hepatitis C may never get drugs like these, either because of the difficult approval process or the costs.
This was one of the reasons Kim started a charitable organization to help those who can’t afford treatment. The goal of her Bonnie Morgan Foundation for HCV (notwithoutafight.org) is to help the public understand the disease and to help those who are infected get treatment. Kim is being paid a stipend by the drug company that is providing her with the experimental treatments, but she is donating it all to the foundation.
With her new-found energy and renewed outlook on survival, Kim is back to working with Mike on managing their business and growing the finishing shop.
“With all that has happened, I truly do feel blessed,” she says. “I have two great kids, and I married a great guy, and I really like what I do with the finishing shop. I have to keep everything in perspective, because you just never know when the next challenge will come at you.”
For more information on KMG Metal Finishing, please call 303-651-7665 or visit kmgmetalfinishing.com. Visit Notwithoutafight.org for more information on how to help Kim Bossley's charitable efforts to make medications more affordable for Hepatitis-C patients.
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