After a roughly 50-year career in plastics, one wouldn't know that was not Judy Mickelson's original plan.
Mickelson got into the plastics industry when she was working in Boston as a single parent and started looking for a new job. She answered an ad for Color Technology Inc. of Westboro, Mass., where it was considered a startup company in the color concentrate business at the time, she said.
"I did accounts payable, accounts receivable, generated the profit and loss statement, eventually got into the purchasing, and as the company grew, I became the office manager. I did the payroll, filed the taxes, got involved in everything because it was a small company at the time. I had a very nice career there but started thinking about my future," she said.
Mickelson developed many contacts in her years there and quietly began talking to people and networking. She started Primary Colors Inc., a manufacturer of color and additive concentrates, in 1994 and today serves as president.
Primary started with five employees and now has 35 in North Grafton, Mass. Mickelson said the advice she would give to others starting a career in the plastics industry is "hire good people."
The company was first housed in a rented space with a leaking roof and "terrible" lighting, she said. After 10 years in the space, Primary moved to a new space while keeping the manufacturing running. The space is 30,000 square feet with the ability to expand another 20,000 square feet on the building if necessary.
The best advice she has ever received, she said, is to "treat the business like a game and watch the scoreboard, but don't be obsessed by it."
Mickelson was nominated for Women Breaking the Mold by Jim Brown, director of sales at Primary.
"I'm in the process of turning the business over to Jim Brown and retiring, and it's just been a tremendous career," Mickelson said. "I've met so many wonderful people and made so many friendships over the years."