Location: Philadelphia, PA
Of all his accomplishments, Mark D. Kuhn IV is most proud of the way he and his team made it through the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic without laying off any employees. Kuhn’s people-first approach matches his company’s aim to promote a “laid-back and fun environment.”
“During the pandemic, we were feeling the slowdown from all sides, and my partners and I realized that we needed to make some heavy decisions,” said Kuhn, the CEO of Oat Foundry. “We decided not to lay anyone off and instead focus on building products that our community could use and redirect our sales and marketing teams to find people who need them. In the end, we created 30,000 face shields for the Philadelphia region and have emerged stronger than we were before.”
Oat Foundry began in 2013 with a team of six Drexel engineers with a mission to build “cool stuff.” They spent their early days building a range of products from furniture for coffee shops to ice cream packaging machines. In 2015, they were presented with the task to build a split-flap display using modern technology while maintaining old-school functionality. Since the first Oat Foundry split flap left the company’s shop in Bensalem, Pennsylvania, the business has grown into a state-of-the-art production facility headquartered in the heart of Philadelphia manufacturing. It now solely produces analog technology with the help of 20 employees in four departments and ships products all over the world.
Kuhn grew up in the right environment to learn how to make what the Oat Foundry calls “cool stuff.” His mother did the craft pages for Highlights magazine and her home office was filled with craft supplies. Kuhn’s father had an entrepreneurial spirit. Together, the parents instilled Kuhn and his brothers with a “you can build it” courage, he said. Kuhn became an Eagle Scout, and that afforded him some on-the-fly tinkering opportunities as well.
“Establishing Oat Foundry was an extension of that problem-solving experience,” Kuhn said. “My cofounders and I graduated in June 2013. Ten days later (we) had an LLC, and within a month we set up our first factory space. Our early plan was to build on a pretzel-machine business we had started in college — that’s another story — but when that project evaporated, we had to pivot.”
In the coming years, Oat Foundry projects it will grow to more than 30 employees and become a $15 million product development and commercialization company. It will expand its Philadelphia headquarters while decreasing its carbon footprint. “Oat Foundry will continue to be a laid-back, fun environment where clever, driven, motivated people will find camaraderie and opportunities to delight, grow and influence the world,” the company said.
Mark has made his own fireworks from scratch and still has all ten fingers
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