Marcia Coulson's had plastics nearby in her whole life: As a child she remembers an "unlimited supply of plastic parts to be separated." She and her five siblings would watch TV and simultaneously separate plastic parts.
Coulson, now president of Denver-based tubing and components manufacturer Eldon James Corp., followed in her parents' footsteps after selling real estate for 15 years and entered the plastics industry. A major goal when she became sole owner of Eldon James was to diversify end markets — to include pharmaceutical and later food and beverage markets.
In 2007, the company started extruding PVC-free tubing and is one of the only connector and tubing manufacturers in the U.S. to solely produce PVC-free products.
The mother of three persevered to raise her children and continue to innovate the company — a move that presents sacrifice but she said also instilled her with the courage to keep going.
Q: Describe your company, what it does, and its culture:
Coulson: Eldon James is an innovative, woman-owned manufacturer and has been a global supplier of proprietary and customized tubing and connection solutions since 1987. We specialize in PVC-free, single-use tubing, components, quick disconnects and assemblies designed for medical devices, life sciences, bioprocess, biomedical, pharmaceutical and other critical-use applications.
We also supply a broad spectrum of products to the transportation, automotive, food and beverage, chemical and general industrial sectors. Eldon James celebrates 33 years of success this year with over 6,000 catalog products sold around the world to over 40 countries.
Eldon James offers contract manufacturing opportunities with a portfolio of capabilities that include extrusion, injection molding, formed tubing and single-use assemblies. Our quality certifications include ISO 9001 and ISO 13485.
We employ the best and brightest people empowered with state of the art equipment, tools and processes resulting in world-class products sought after by a global market. We embrace our values to provide customers with exceptional service and products. We are committed to continuously learning, using and improving strategies to enable global competitiveness. We are dedicated to supporting community improvement, education and environmental stewardship.
Q: What's the most interesting or unusual job you've ever had?
Coulson: Building Eldon James has been unusual as 33 years ago there were very few women in the plastics industry. I'm sure I had a lot of people who thought we would never make it, but we also had a lot of people who believed in us. Our customers believed in us, and we worked to never let them down. Business has also been the most interesting as we enjoy selling to so many industries.
Q: What was your first job in plastics?
Coulson: In my family, you were always busy. There was an unlimited supply of plastic parts to be separated. There was no watching TV without simultaneously separating plastic parts.
Q: Tell us about a mentor you've had in your career:
Coulson: My parents have been my mentors. Mom and Dad worked together to raise a family of five children while building their plastics business. We never saw them fight or disagree. To this day they show respect for each others talents and talk about how neither of them could have made it without the other.
Q: What is your education?
Coulson: I wanted to pay for my college education, so I worked after high school. After earning the money to pay tuition, I took a few semesters of college. I grew impatient with the pace and attitudes and felt I could learn faster with on-the-job training. I started selling real estate on 100 percent commission and later started my own real estate firm when I was 28. I continued that education path for 15 years until we started Eldon James. It's amazing how things I learned in real estate have helped me in the plastics world. We have always owned our Eldon James facilities because we still believe in real estate investments.
Q: When did you become CEO, and what was your first goal?
Coulson: We founded Eldon James in 1987, and in 2000 I became the sole owner. As a single mom, my first goal was to support my three young children on my own and make sure there was only a healthy amount of sacrifice on their part. It's amazing how much courage kids can inspire. Failure was not an option. Now my sons have started their own businesses.
After selling real estate for 15 years, I was looking for the opportunity to sell my own products. We purchased a few molding machines and five molds from my mother and father and set up a small shop in Loveland, Colo. As the business grew, I diversified and saw product potential in the pharmaceutical, life science sector and later in the food and beverage market.
I met my husband Bill in 2007, and he helped pioneer Eldon James' PVC-free tubing product line, making Eldon James one of the only connector and tubing manufacturers in the U.S. to solely produce PVC-free products. We have built a great team and celebrated 33 years of success this year.
We believe that medical and pharmaceutical, critical-use applications deserve a world-class product that won't compromise health and safety standards for the patient, environment or our communities. Industry research, along with common sense, have begun to recognize that the use of PVC plastics is dangerous to the environment and to the people who come into contact with these common products.
Real estate is a service industry, and you need to be very good at sales and customer service. I believed if I could take what I had learned from real estate and apply that to my own product line, I would be successful. I grew up with manufacturing in our garage and was not intimidated by the thought of manufacturing.
Q: What's the best career advice you've received?
Coulson: Be someone that people want to work for and are proud to work for.
Q: What advice would you give to someone starting at your company tomorrow?
Coulson: We hired you because you are a self-starter and you will be joining a team of people who are self-starters. Each person at EJ has skills that enhance other team members. We all work hard because we are proud of what we accomplish together, and together we accomplish so much more than we could individually.
[A] key lesson I learned over the years is that people are the best and hardest part of business. You are only as good as the people you surround yourself with; finding good employees is my biggest leadership challenge. Treat your employees and your customers well. People work with and for the people they enjoy. Customers buy from companies they like.
Make sure you manufacture a product. If you are selling someone else's product, you have to out-service all other salespeople. Be sure you manufacture a product you believe in and know that you manufacture the best quality and then offer the best service.
Q: What associations do you belong to or actively participate in?
Coulson: Colorado Bio Science, Women in Manufacturing and the Colorado Advanced Manufacturers Association.
Q: What industry events do you attend?
Coulson: We have such a diversified portfolio of products; we attend smaller regional shows and events. The larger shows would be MD&M West, BPIWest, InterPhex, Compamed, ACHEMA, Craft Brewers and the Homebrew Conference.
Q: What do you want your legacy to be?
Coulson: We want to be known as innovators who constantly invested back into their business. Innovators who invested in their people, equipment, facilities, tooling, and new and better products.