Rhonda Puetz embraces change and likes new challenges, and she got both in 2003 when she helped get PlastiComp Inc. get off the ground.
PlastiComp is a Winona, Minn., producer of long glass fiber reinforced thermoplastics, especially noted for work with specialty formulations based in polyetheretherketone, nylon 12 and similar exotic materials. Steve Bowen started PlastiComp after gaining experience in materials at resins major Celanese. The pair worked together at Celanese for 12 years, and Bowen asked Puetz to help get his startup off the ground.
They started out working out of their homes but began renting office space to physically launch the firm. They built PlastiComp from scratch, creating company procedures and promoting the new business at trade shows and in the media. By the end of the first year PlastiComp had five employees — now it has 60, and is in the process of getting ISO registration.
“It was a good learning experience working with Steve,” Puetz recalled in a phone interview.
Puetz's experience was in administration so Bowen taught her a lot about plastics, developing business relationships and signing on partners.
“Steve's mentorship was invaluable,” Puetz said.
Puetz obtained a business administration degree from Winona State University and soon after got her first job in customer service at materials supplier Cytec Fiberite in 1986. By 1988 she moved up to inside sales manager at Celanese. After 12 years in that post she joined engineering plastics supplier RTP as business development manager until her departure in 2003 to help form PlastiComp. Used to wearing many different hats, Puetz eventually settled on communications as the focus of her career. Her title is manager of customer service and communications.
Through all this growth in the business world she found time for one of the biggest challenges in life, raising a family.
“I pretty much fell into this industry and love it and have stuck with it for 30 years,” Puetz, 53, said.
Some of the early skills she learned prepared her to be open to constructive criticism, to stay positive and to learn from her experiences.
“These are all good challenges and are placed on high priority,”
She is interested in lightweighting through reinforced plastics, and how to apply the technology to the next generation of robots, unmanned aerial vehicles, automotive and other industrial markets. In that vein, the company has developed a new line of thermoplastic composites containing both glass and carbon fibers to get the advantages of both reinforcements.
Puetz has these words of advice for someone contemplating a career in plastics: “Think outside the box, be creative, listen to others and respect their ideas, and to always remember customers are the reasons you're in business.”