Jan Shields was born and raised in Iowa. Economic climate was the factor that moved her from one place to the next. She has 3 adult children that live in Georgia. Jan is fortunate enough to work with her two sons and sees her daughter often.
PolyStone Creations “grew” within another company until it was able to stand on its own. Since the raw materials they used for both were similar, it gave us an opportunity to create another revenue stream to make countertops for business jets in the beginning. They have transitioned into mostly commercial which was a very positive growth step for the company.
2020 was going to be the biggest year of Jan’s career until COVID-19 changed everything. They were told by all of their customers that they couldn’t ship existing orders and they were deferring the ones in progress to the 4th quarter, or 2021. Obviously, Jan had some discouraging days as this picture started to form.
From a previous contact, she connected with a company that needed a company with CNC routing machines to make PPE for the general public and also protective barriers for bank and credit unions. PolyStone Creations is currently recreating itself not only to make their financial ends meet but to hopefully continue with an added revenue stream. The key is to keep options open and never quit even when you feel like the “sky has fallen”.
Jan doesn’t know what the future holds with the new venture but she looks at it as access to something bigger on the other side. She is stepping through to explore the opportunity until the aircraft industry recovers and is very hopeful that it will. She has a plaque in her kitchen window that says “Slow down and let happiness catch you . . . “. Indeed that’s what she’s done.
Intro: [00:00:04] Broadcasting live from the Business RadioX studios in Atlanta, Georgia, it’s time for GWBC Radio’s Open for Business. Now, here’s your host.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:18] Lee Kantor here. Another episode of GWBC’s Open for Business. And this is going to be a fun one. Today, we have Jan Shields with us, and she’s with PolyStone Creations. Welcome, Jan.
Jan Shields: [00:00:31] Well, thanks for having me.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:33] Well, before we get too far into things, can you share a little bit about PolyStone Creations. How are you serving folks?
Jan Shields: [00:00:42] PolyStone Creations manufactures countertops for aircraft. We had our beginnings with our own Gulfstream right here in Savannah, Georgia back in 1996, if you can believe that. So, we’ve been doing this for a while. And business jet is where we started, but there was an evolution to a commercial, which is really a much better business model for us. And so, that’s what we have been doing full time.
Lee Kantor: [00:01:16] And then, how did you find the need in the marketplace for that specific niche?
Jan Shields: [00:01:23] Well, I tell you, it was an interesting transition because business jet, there was a period of time about five years ago where there was a migration away from business jet. But the people that used to buy jets and just have them at their disposal, they still wanted the luxury when they flew commercially. And so, there became a huge competition between the aircraft companies to upgrade their first class seating. And so, this required them to go out and find additional materials that they could use, new and better things, options that they weren’t generally used to seeing in those areas.
Jan Shields: [00:02:14] And so, we fit right into that category. So, we were able to service their needs for things like cocktail tables and for some of the … the Singapore Sky Room, for example, has a very fancy first class area where there is actually a credenza inside ledges. It’s like a little hotel room right there in the aircraft. And so, these are very, very high end, luxurious little rooms that they’ve put together for their customers. And so, our products fit right in. So, that’s what we’ve been doing lately.
Lee Kantor: [00:02:57] Now, the thing that’s unique about your countertops are the weight, right, as well as the quality, and the look, and the feel of this stuff. That’s an interesting kind of place in the marketplace. How did you develop that?
Jan Shields: [00:03:13] Well, we actually had another business that the aircraft business grew with in for a period of time. And then, once we sold the company that it grew within, because the raw materials that we used for both were similar, and that’s really what gave us the ability to get into this, number one, and grow with it as we went along. And I would say one of the things that the designers love about working with us the most is that they can come to us with something like a natural stone, and they can say, “Okay, we want you to match in your process this marble. We want you to create this marble,” or “We want you to create something,” and they’ll describe it to us, “that’s very white, but has a pattern of dark specks,” or whatever they’re looking for. And we’re able to do the custom color.
Lee Kantor: [00:04:22] And that way, the matching, the colors can match really elegantly in the space rather than just hope that you found a natural stone that fits in there.
Jan Shields: [00:04:31] Exactly.
Lee Kantor: [00:04:34] Now-
Jan Shields: [00:04:34] And that’s why they keep coming back because they always want something new.
Lee Kantor: [00:04:40] Now, does the stone also work for homes or is this meant just specifically for aircraft?
Jan Shields: [00:04:46] We could definitely make countertops for for home use. In fact, that was exactly what our previous business was. We were making something similar for residential and commercial use in homes. But we’ve become so busy with our aircraft work that when your day job is filled with the highest end product you can make, you tend to stay there.
Lee Kantor: [00:05:20] Right.
Jan Shields: [00:05:20] So, we’ve definitely stayed with aircraft. We’ve done a few yachts over the years, but they were very high-end yachts. So, the aircraft is good production work though, because United Airlines was one of our biggest customers as well, and they had a project that they called Polaris. And it was a seven-year program.
Lee Kantor: [00:05:53] Wow!
Jan Shields: [00:05:54] So, when you can take on a program that spans that length of time, it puts you in a really good position.
Lee Kantor: [00:06:03] So, now, are you being creative with your clients in order to keep serving them?
Jan Shields: [00:06:09] Well, right now, they have had to kind of … it’s like they’re hibernating in a way. That’s all I can say because things have really impacted what they’re doing right now. But I feel like as soon as the climate changes and people get back out there, things could go back to somewhat normal production as quickly as they shut down. So, it’s just really unpredictable. And one example I could give you is Rockwell Collins because they have a a plant in the Philippines, and when all of this started, and it became a worldwide event, we were told, “Okay, we got to suspend shipping for a period of time.” And so, they would defer our orders. But right now, what’s happening as they’re getting back in motion is that they’re bringing all those orders back and even accelerating them.
Jan Shields: [00:07:20] So, even if we have some customers that have moved and deferred their programs out a bit, we’ve got others that are coming on strong. And we’re working with Japan Airlines on a new program that’s almost as big as United was. So, these programs take a number of years to develop. And so, it’s always good to have new things that we’re working on. And that has not stopped.
Lee Kantor: [00:07:54] Now, how about share a little bit for our listeners some advice, when you’re dealing with this higher end kind of luxury product or service, how is that different? And what kind of tips can you recommend of really delivering that same level of service that they expect?
Jan Shields: [00:08:13] Okay, yeah. They’re always looking for something new, and they’re looking for a company that can serve them on all levels. And what I mean is that you’ve got to be able to deliver the aesthetic they’re looking for, you’ve got to be able to deliver the quality. We have a real interesting little element in our product, and that’s that it’s very in velvety to the touch. It’s because of the way it’s made, but when when you touch it, it’s warm and velvety. And that’s a really nice selling point because if people can’t keep their hands off it, then you know you’ve got some good going on.
Jan Shields: [00:09:06] And it’s easy to maintain. I think maintenance is a huge thing. It’s like natural stone that’s had a high status for many years, and I don’t think it’ll ever go away. Natural stone is where we take our inspiration. But in reality, this is better than natural stone because it’s so user friendly, it’s antimicrobial. You’re not going to have bacterial growth. We have an NSF certification. It means you could serve food on it if you wanted to. And those are really nice features to have. So, the designers really get it all. They get the style they want, they get the color they want, they get the form they want. And if you can meet all that criteria, you can really deal with these high end customers because they’re getting the latest and the greatest.
Lee Kantor: [00:10:09] Now-.
Jan Shields: [00:10:09] There’s always something new, so.
Lee Kantor: [00:10:12] Right. So, you have the flexibility to be able to do that and deliver that as well. So, you’re really hitting on all the important components they need in a service provider or partner.
Jan Shields: [00:10:24] Exactly.
Lee Kantor: [00:10:26] Now, how has the GWBC impacted your business? Has that organization helped you?
Jan Shields: [00:10:33] Oh, it has. United, when we first started with our contract with United, they really encouraged me to go ahead and get my certification because it’s a real benefit to a company like them to use a woman-owned business. And so, it’s quite a process as anyone that’s been through it can tell you. And I’m up for renewal right now. But it’s a very worthy thing because it’s a benefit to my customer. And not only that, it’s a benefit to me personally because I have a group of people that are very engaged in business that we’re trying to do and we can work together. And I think the collaborative factor is huge.
Lee Kantor: [00:11:32] Now, going through this pandemic that we’re doing, and the impact, it’s impacting everybody, is there anything that you’ve learned that maybe you’ve had to change a little bit, but it might pay off later on down the road? Then, maybe you’re doing some things a little differently now that you’ll be able to use in the future when the pandemic is over?
Jan Shields: [00:11:57] Well, yeah. It’s just very interesting how things evolve because early on, when things kind of just absolutely went to sleep, it’s almost like the industry went under anesthetic or something, it was like … and that’s a very unnerving thing because we were at the peak of production. I mean, 2020 was going to be our best year in business. And to have this present was, I can say, shocking. It was kind of a shocking thing. But almost at the very same time, a need arose within an organization that I’ve grown that does executive coaching, and this this group of people, they have a distribution organization, and there was an invention of some of these personal protective equipment shields that you can wear on a facemask. Instead of wearing a mask up against your nose and mouth, it sits on the bill of a visor or a ball cap. And so it sits out from your face, but you’re getting protection not only from your mouth and nose but for your eyes as well.
Jan Shields: [00:13:25] And so, they need a manufacturing group that could produce these for them. And so, it’s been about a month ago now, and we’re hoping to get up to 10,000 units a week with the distribution. So, this is going to be a great new little revenue stream for however long it lasts. And not only that, but we’re going to be making barriers for places like banks and credit unions because, right now, as they’re reopening, they need these pieces of protective barriers, so they can deal with their customers, and everyone feels safe in the space. So, it’s just a really great little thing to help us connect our dots, because there’s still aircraft work going on, but this is a very nice addition to that. And I would very much like to see it continue.
Lee Kantor: [00:14:31] Well, congratulations on being so creative. And that’s what I love about doing this kind of work, is we get to hear so many talented people that they’re not just saying, “Okay, we’re going to wait this out.” They’re just saying, “What do we have to do to solve this problem and to keep everything going?” And we’re pretty creative folks, you know?
Jan Shields: [00:14:52] Well, I tell you, it’s not that I didn’t have a few cloudy days, if you just put it that way. But it’s like when I heard this opportunity, it was just maybe a week after everything really got quiet, which I wasn’t used to, just dealing with the financial aspect of it alone, but we did get our PPE loan, and we got in the first wave of that. And I’ve got employees, I want to keep them working. And som my heart is really to support them. I don’t want them to have to be worried about their future. And I want to do everything I can to keep things moving for them. So, having these options present themselves is like I jumped all over the opportunity because it’s going to support my people, and that’s what I really want most of all.
Lee Kantor: [00:15:58] Well, congratulations on your success and your heart of trying to serve people the way that you are. If somebody wanted to learn more about what you’ve got going on, is there a website?
Jan Shields: [00:16:10] We have a website. It’s www.polystonecreations.com. I should spell it, I think.
Lee Kantor: [00:16:21] Go ahead, go ahead.
Jan Shields: [00:16:21] It’s P-O-L-Y-S-T-O-N-E Creations with an S, dot com. Some people put 2 Ls in there, but it’s just P-O-L-Y.
Lee Kantor: [00:16:34] Right. Like not the name but P-O-L-Y, not P-O-L-L-Y. Well, good stuff, Jan. Congratulations again. And thank you so much for sharing your story today.
Jan Shields: [00:16:46] Well, you’re very welcome, Lee. Thank you so much and have a great day.
Lee Kantor: [00:16:50] You too. All right. This is Lee Kantor. We’ll see you all next time on GWBC’s Open for Business.
About Your Host
Roz Lewis is President & CEO – Greater Women’s Business Council (GWBC®), a regional partner organization of the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) and a member of the WBENC Board of Directors.
Previous career roles at Delta Air Lines included Flight Attendant, In-Flight Supervisor and Program Manager, Corporate Supplier Diversity.
During her career she has received numerous awards and accolades. Most notable: Atlanta Business Chronicle’s 2018 Diversity & Inclusion award; 2017 inducted into the WBE Hall of Fame by the American Institute of Diversity and Commerce and 2010 – Women Out Front Award from Georgia Tech University.
She has written and been featured in articles on GWBC® and supplier diversity for Forbes Magazine SE, Minority Business Enterprise, The Atlanta Tribune, WE- USA, Minorities and Women in Business magazines. Her quotes are published in The Girls Guide to Building a Million Dollar Business book by Susan Wilson Solovic and Guide Coaching by Ellen M. Dotts, Monique A. Honaman and Stacy L. Sollenberger. Recently, she appeared on Atlanta Business Chronicle’s BIZ on 11Alive, WXIA to talk about the importance of mentoring for women.
In 2010, Lewis was invited to the White House for Council on Women and Girls Entrepreneur Conference for the announcement of the Small Business Administration (SBA) new Women Owned Small Business Rule approved by Congress. In 2014, she was invited to the White House to participate in sessions on small business priorities and the Affordable Care Act.
Roz Lewis received her BS degree from Florida International University, Miami, FL and has the following training/certifications: Certified Purchasing Managers (CPM); Certified Professional in Supplier Diversity (CPSD), Institute for Supply Management (ISM)of Supplier Diversity and Procurement: Diversity Leadership Academy of Atlanta (DLAA), Negotiations, Supply Management Strategies and Analytical Purchasing.
Connect with Roz on LinkedIn.
The Greater Women’s Business Council (GWBC®) is at the forefront of redefining women business enterprises (WBEs). An increasing focus on supplier diversity means major corporations are viewing our WBEs as innovative, flexible and competitive solutions. The number of women-owned businesses is rising to reflect an increasingly diverse consumer base of women making a majority of buying decision for herself, her family and her business.
GWBC® has partnered with dozens of major companies who are committed to providing a sustainable foundation through our guiding principles to bring education, training and the standardization of national certification to women businesses in Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina