PlastiWin Capital Equipment LLC is Erin Swain's first plastics industry role — and it's also where she hopes to retire.
"When starting, I took it upon myself to start a sales division for used blow molding equipment. I knew absolutely nothing about it," said Swain, who ordered a blow molding handbook off eBay. The book still sits on the shelf in her office.
"I would flip through the pages and highlight different facts about each type of machine. I have to admit it was all very confusing. It wasn't until I started visiting plants that I was able to actually visualize the process," she said.
In the beginning, she was not familiar with the technical side, so she heavily relied on her sales experience.
"I learned in a lot of instances it really didn't matter what I was selling, but how I connected with my buyers or sellers," she said.
Swain graduated from Kent State University with a bachelor's degree in business management and marketing.
As the vice president of equipment sales for Twinsburg, Ohio-based PlastiWin, Swain procures equipment and negotiates the best deal for both the buyer and seller. Her husband, Brian, founded PlastiWin in 2010.
She is also an SPE blow molding division board member and social media committee co-chair. "Working with this wonderful group has taught me so much. I consider myself lucky to be a small part of such a prestigious group," she said.
Swain has also spearheaded a giving drive with Project Rise in Akron, Ohio, for the past few years. "I am a firm believer in 'being the change.' … This year, with the help of my personal network, we were able to donate 235 fully assembled hygiene totes and an additional $500. It is a labor of love and I wouldn't have it any other way," she said.
Q: What is your personal "mold" that you are breaking?
Swain: A lot of people think that when you have kids you can't do both — be a mother and be present at your job. I disagree. I have found it to benefit me at times. I can accomplish a lot in my line of business all while being a great example for my children.
Bringing a feminine presence to blow molding is something you don't see very often. Most of the meetings I have, boardrooms I walk into, are heavily male-dominated. It isn't easy to be a woman in a male-dominated industry. So many uncomfortable situations, negative comments and intimidation. It's vital as a woman; I don't let that dictate how I carry myself. I try to allow my performance and reputation to speak for itself. I look forward to continuing to help the plastics/blow molding industry grow and hope to be an inspiration for other females to follow suit.
Q: What is the most unexpected thing you learned from the pandemic?
Swain: Most things have gone surprisingly well, notably the rapid need for used equipment. I had a record-breaking year. At times, I would feel guilty about it. I would think of all the people and industries struggling to stay afloat. To combat that, I made it a point to use my success for the better. I got involved with a few more local organizations to help give back. In return, I have made some great relationships with some pretty amazing people.
Q: What is your current challenge at work?
Swain: Sustainable business growth. We care greatly for our employees. We have a very slim turnover rate. Most of our employees have been with us since day one. Helping ourselves and our employees to keep up with all the advancements in the industry and how to effectively reach our client base is extremely important. We need to continue to push the boundaries and make personal connections. We are always trying to find ways to motivate performance and growth.