The National Association of Women Business Owners named the chief executive officer of precision molder Pacific Plastics & Engineering of Soquel, Calif., as a major award winner.
Peers selected Stephanie Harkness as 1999 Woman Business Owner of the Year on the basis of her entrepreneurship, initiative, creativity and external involvement, said Laura Boardman of Salt Lake City, national awards chairwoman. The group planned to present Harkness with a crystal trophy June 19 in Atlanta.
The association's Silicon Valley chapter, which Harkness co-founded, nominated her. NAWBO has 8,000 members and is based in Silver Springs, Md.
Previously, Harkness received the Wells Fargo Bank Outstanding Entrepreneur of 1998 award and was named to a San Francisco Bay-area list of top 25 women business owners in 1997.
In 1989, Stephanie Harkness and her husband, Jack, left corporate positions to purchase a small plastics business. Stephanie owns a majority, and Jack a minority, of Harkness Enterprises Corp., which does business as Pacific Plastics & Engineering.
As CEO, she deals with strategy, corporate culture, marketing and customer relations. Jack Harkness serves as chief operating officer and oversees design, manufacturing and quality operations.
The firm employs 45 others, including five design engineers and four quality technicians. The company operates around the clock, six days a week. About 20 percent of the employees are related, and all are provided with the CEO's internal ``bootcamp-for-life education program.''
Pacific Plastics is ``highly automated, highly technical [and] connected to the requirements of customers,'' Stephanie Harkness said in a telephone interview. ``We're known for helping customers who are engineering-driven.''
The firm moved in 1993 to its current 15,000-square-foot research park site, which now includes a Class 100,000 clean room for molding of surgical devices and disposable laboratory items, plus a captive, independently owned mold-making shop.
Pacific Plastics added a 150-ton Mitsubishi in November, giving the shop 11 microprocessor-controlled injection molding presses of 24-230 tons. All are less than 8 years old.
In June 1998, the firm and Nypro Inc. of Clinton, Mass., formed an alliance.
Pacific Plastics handles Nypro customers' pre-production development before the orders move to a Nypro site for volume molding. In addition, the alliance opens the door for the work of a Pacific Plastics' customer to move to an off-shore Nypro molding facility.
Prototype and pre-production work — including projects from Nypro — accounts for about 25 percent of Pacific Plastics' business. Contract manufacturing in support of molding projects includes assembly, decorating, milling and sonic welding.
Annual sales are in the ``high seven figures'' and have been growing at least 25 percent a year, the company said.