Tyrone business thrives in first year
[Published by the Altoona Mirror on April 12th, 2020 as reported by Walt Frank. See original article: https://www.altoonamirror.com/news/local-business/2020/04/tyrone-business-thrives-in-first-year/
TYRONE — The first year in business has been very successful for a Tyrone manufacturer.
“When I wrote the business plan, I didn’t expect to be where we are for three years. We’ve done better than expected,” said Evan Stober, president and lead technology developer for Steller Innovations, LLC.
Steller Innovations, which opened April 1, 2019, in the former Precision Dimensions building on Burley Avenue, is a family-owned and operated business.
The other two partners are Stover’s wife, Britta Teller — who serves as sales and communications director — and his father, Lee Stover — who is lead consultant and machine design specialist.
Steller Innovations is a manufacturer of innovative flooring products, and its patented floor assembly system provides customers with solid hardwood flooring in a snap-down, floating floor format that is easy to install, repair and replace, said Marilyn Kail, spokeswoman for Startup Alleghenies, which played a key role in helping the business get started.
The flooring is available in Pennsylvania hardwoods including walnut, hard maple, white oak and red oak.
“Evan has designed a new way to assemble a hardwood floor. We use plastic clips to assemble the hardwood floor,” Teller said.
“We are committed to creating high-quality hardwood flooring products that are ecologically friendly and support excellent jobs in our small community,” Stover said.
Startup Alleghenies, a free program in central Pennsylvania that helps aspiring entrepreneurs locate the information, tools and connections that will move their idea from vision to market, liked Steller’s idea.
“Steller Innovations’s unique approach to flooring provided a great business idea that was easy for Startup Alleghenies and our partners to get behind,” Debbi Prosser, director business-development, Southern Alleghenies Planning and Development Commission, said. “In fact, this company is exactly the type of opportunity for which our ecosystem was founded — a chance to bring in the right resources to entrepreneurs when and where they need it the most.”
Prosser said other segments of the Startup Alleghenies ecosystem helped.
“Ben Franklin Technology Partners provided investment dollars; the Saint Francis Small Business Development Center worked with them on their business plan; and Startup Alleghenies helped with their marketing strategy, and connected them to experts in financial planning, international trade and shop layout,” Prosser said.
Startup Alleghenies was an incredible source of support, Teller said.
“Evan has a background in wood products, I was an instructor in biology at Penn State, but neither of us has a business degree. He is creative and I am strategic at putting a team together. We got a huge amount of support from Startup Alleghenies — they showed up with what we needed,” Teller said.
“The networking they explained to us has been amazing,” Stover said.
Going to a Pennsylvania Hardwoods Development Council trade show was beneficial.
“When we went to the trade show, we didn’t realize how much interest we would get. This support helped us launch the product,” Teller said.
“We went to the trade show to see how people would respond, it went way better than we thought it would,” Stover said.
Council Executive Director D. Wayne Bender was impressed.
“Steller Innovations is taking hardwood flooring to a higher level with new technology, finishes and opportunities to use solid hardwood flooring in your home, your basement and even an apartment where you can take up the flooring and move it to your next home. This company is set for growth allowing quality Pennsylvania hardwoods to be used in homes everywhere,” Bender said.
The company had to find a place to set up its operations.
“The biggest challenge was when we went to trade shows. We had a prototype — we had to find a place to get it up and running,” Stover said.
“Lee and Evan believed in the town. Evan graduated from Tyrone Area High School in 2004. We knew Tyrone was full of amazing people, had a good school district and a good community. He didn’t see any reason to go far from home,” Teller said. “In Pennsylvania, we have a large access to hardwood resources, this provided us with an opportunity to create a product people would want. We are trying to recapture interest in hardwood floors and we are doing it here in Tyrone. This provided us an opportunity to create a product people would want.”
Teller said most of Steller’s customers are do-it-yourselfers and their products have been shipped all over the country.
The business has faced some challenges.
“Finding the right team members has been a priority, so we can conduct a creative environment and a creative product. We started out as starry-eyed millennials trying to create jobs people would want to have,” Teller said. “We were lucky to have created a product that people want. The support from the community has been excellent and we had the employees to pull it off.”
Teller and Stover are optimistic about the future of the business.
“Our number one priority is growing the community of craftsmanship in Tyrone. We want to create more jobs that pay well and support families. We want to grow to serve a broader market,” Teller said.
“We have seven employees and have been as high as ten. As we grow we are looking to add 20-25 jobs in the next year. We hope a lot of people are working from here,” Teller added.
“Keeping up with continued growth has been our greatest challenge,” Stover said.