By Kris Leonhardt
MARSHFIELD — The stainless steel industry is not a place many would expect to see a woman operating as a CEO. According to Small Business Administration and National Women’s Business Council statistics, of the total women in business, only 4.8 percent operate as CEOs, and within the manufacturing industry, only 5 percent of the CEOs are women.
Jimmi-Jean Sukys is the CEO of the Marshfield manufacturing business Quality Tank Solutions, a path she has been on since a very young age.
“That’s always what I wanted to do since I was a little girl,” she said. “Right out of college I worked for a company in Brookfield that was a supplier to stainless steel welder shops, so I sold grinding tools and air supplies to this industry, and I worked with many great people all across Wisconsin,” said Sukys, “so I spent seven years there in stainless, and then I left them. One of the companies that I serviced called me and asked me if I would come to work for them. They were out of Madison, … and I worked my way up from project coordinator to director of manufacturer there and spent 10 years there.
“Then I was invited to start a new facility in Franksville, and I went there, and after four years there I decided that it was time to start our own, so we started our own.”
Sukys and Chad Sprinkman started business planning in the sunroom of their family home, which includes six children and a labradoodle named Steel.
“It was good,” she said. “Chad and I, we know stainless very well. We knew what we were doing. The only thing we were missing really was employees and a place to do it, so we started selling out of there and started working and designing, go to Starbucks a lot, and work on the tables or out of the local coffee shop .
“As things started progressing, we started selling more and more and needing more and more (workers). We needed to find a place that we could set up shop and start doing more of our own things and expand to what we are.
“We started with a much smaller portfolio, and then as we were able to grow, then we started to go into the food industry as well.”
The move into an accommodating facility took Sukys and Sprinkman just one year to accomplish.
From there the pair developed Oconomowoc-based Quality Tank Solutions, a full service stainless tank manufacturing company in which
Sukys operates as the CEO, and Sprinkman serves as vice president of sales and marketing.
The company has been in business since 2012 and manufactures custom brew houses and other stainless tanks, serving the craft brewing, beverage, food, dairy, and pharmaceutical industries.
A couple of years ago Quality Tank Solutions extended its business north to Marshfield, where the company took up temporary residence
in other facilities before building its new location.
“We knew that we needed the manufacturing just coming up north this way because you don’t have as great of a pool of welders as you do in this area with A&B (Processing) and CFR (Custom Fabricating & Repair) and Bauer Welding,” Sukys explained. “You’ve just got a lot of welders in this area.”
The new Marshfield facilities were recently constructed in the Norwood Industrial Park and employ 40 staff in addition to the six employees in
Sukys said that the company has plans for future growth and will be looking to add another 15 to 20 employees in the next two years.
“Stainless, I kind of got into it and never left,” Sukys said. “The support in the stainless industry is really, really great. They have been so supportive, my peers, my coworkers. Even the competitors have teamed up and started doing things together.”