Tyson Daniels' journey to plastics company president has followed an unusual path — through the restaurant industry.
The 35-year-old owns and leads the small Allentown, Pa., injection molding company Polymer Contours Inc., which he bought in 2015 after serving as director of operations for a local fast food franchisee with seven stores.
While it might sound like a strange transition, Daniels has always had an entrepreneurial bent and had worked around plastics manufacturing.
Daniels and a partner, in fact, developed an injection molded product — the Pen Pal, a light with a grip that fits around pens to be used by airline pilots in dark cockpits — and they had successfully sourced tooling and manufacturing in China, all while he still worked in restaurants.
"My journey into injection molding was the pilot pen," he said. "We spent a lot of time and money on that. We were producing 5,000 to 10,000 parts at a time and shipping them over here from China."
So, when the opportunity to buy Polymer Contours came up in 2015 — through a conversation with a friend who worked in economic development in Allentown — Daniels jumped on it.
For the first 18 months he operated the injection molding company, Daniels said he kept his restaurant management job before deciding he really needed to focus full time on plastics.
While it's still a very small company, with only four employees and three injection molding machines, Daniels said it's growing. Late in 2017, Polymer Contours began using fully automated, lights-out production for some work.
"Here we are in our fourth year," he said. "We've quadrupled sales; we have gone from one customer to 21 customers. We're running commodity materials to engineering-grade resins. We have automation. We're running lights-out on two of the three machines."