Henderson, NC  |  Thilo Hesslery  |

The SBTDC introduced me to EXIM Bank which has allowed me to take on more international business that I wouldn’t have taken on otherwise

WHAT THEY DO  Versatrim has been a manufacturer of vinyl floor moldings since 1998. Early on, Thilo took a step back from what they were doing to figure out what their customers actually wanted in terms of product and delivery. It turns out the answer was specialty coloring with no commitments, and they have built their business model around those needs. With more than 8,000 available colors, they have achieved a unique level of customization in their products. As for delivery, they have developed a special process that allows customers to order a single stick of molding with only a two-day lead-time.

UNDER THE CAPE  Back in Germany, Thilo Hessler’s father manufactured vinyl floor moldings. So, when Thilo had the opportunity to open a business in the United States, following in his father’s footsteps simply made sense. At the time, North Carolina had a partnership with Stuttgart, Germany, which brought overseas businesses to the States. He has high praise for the program, which put him in touch with the resources he needed to be successful from the start. Thilo Hessler is not a man to sit still. His most recent project is a line of wall panels covered in extremely realistic, high-resolution photography of materials like tin tiles or chipped paint on wood. For now, it is just a little side project; but they are already the mandatory manufacturer for many of the Rooms To Go being built across the country. He is not sure it will turn into anything yet, but it exemplifies the energy and enthusiasm he has for the industry.

LOCATION LOCATION LOCATION  Thilo set up shop in Raleigh for the first five years. After that, he moved Versatrim to Henderson as a way to reduce costs. He was able to purchase a building with a mortgage payment that is half the rent he was paying in Raleigh.  With the freed up capital, he can funnel more money into marketing, leading to greater sales and the ability to hire additional staff.

GOING GLOBAL  Vance County Economic Development put Thilo in touch with the SBTDC in order to take advantage of more exporting opportunities. His counselors introduced him to EXIM Bank and the credit insurance that they offer before walking him through the application process. Now, Thilo is able to give customers 30-day terms, allowing the product to reach the customer before they are required to pay, or with 60-day credit terms they have a chance to sell the product before paying Versatrim. This flexibility can be the difference between making a sale and watching your potential customer walk away. With credit insurance, Versatrim is not held back by any concern that some misfortune may occur and keep them from receiving payment. It is peace of mind. “I’ve yet to take advantage of a claim, but it is a lot of comfort knowing that if something were to happen, the credit insurance would be there. It has allowed me to take on more international business that I wouldn’t have taken on otherwise.” Now they have $1 million in export sales to Canada and they are doing some exporting to the Caribbean, England, and Australia.

THINKING OUTSIDE THE BOX  Thilo’s habit of putting himself in his clients’ shoes to discover what they really need has allowed him to offer some innovative options to his customers. Recently, he realized that his vinyl flooring manufacturing customers need more than a color and style match for their current line of products. They need a whole new method of distribution. Currently, the flooring manufacturers purchase the molding in bulk, but often end up with a warehouse full of discontinued product. Thilo’s solution allows the customers of the flooring manufacturing companies to make direct purchases from Versatrim. The flooring manufacturers get a commission for promoting Versatrim and they free up warehouse storage. Versatrim, in return, gets the sale of the entire floor molding for the company.

THE RIGHT PEOPLE  Thilo opened the doors with three employees. Today they employ between 75 and 80 people in the Henderson area. He believes in investing in his people because, like he says, “I can always go out and buy a machine off the shelf, but I can’t go out and buy a good machine operator or a good customer service person.” In an area with an unemployment rate at 7.5% and slower than average job growth, Versatrim is changing the lives of their employees every day.

This story was originally published in the SBTDC 2018 Success Stories.  View the entire publication here.

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