By Mary Beth Roach
Owner and president, Punch and Die Metal Fabrication LLC
“Honestly to just be a woman business owner in a male-dominated industry, I think, is a pretty big win for us. I like it.”
This, according to Tiffany Munford, owner and president of Punch and Die Metal Fabrication LLC, located on General Motors Drive in the town of Salina.
National statistics underscore Munford’s statement. According to census figures, in 2016, women represented about 29% of the workforce in manufacturing.
Further highlighting her statement are several plaques and posters on one wall in her office. One is her Women Business Enterprise certificate from the city of Syracuse; second is a large poster of Rosie the Riveter, the iconic image of World War II used to recruit female workers for defense industries. The third is a metal sign etched with the words of one of her favorite quotes: “Not fragile like a flower, fragile like a bomb.”
From the large window in that office, she can view the 15,000 to 20,000 square-foot space below that houses her company as seven employees, one being her husband, Charles, work on various jobs. The company’s products can range from decorative wall art to large enclosures for some of National Grid’s substations.
Munford brings to the role a variety of experience. She worked at Home Depot in the Syracuse area before moving with Charles to California, where he started doing industrial construction and she worked at a Home Depot there. Eventually, she left there and went to work at the same company as Charles as a safety coordinator and an office assistant, but traveling became challenging, so they returned to Syracuse.
She returned to Home Depot and Charles went to work at the former Custom Sheet Metal. That company was picking up larger contracts, Munford said, and needed more help—and Munford, herself needed a change. She got a job at Custom Sheet Metal and worked both the shop and the office. “Doing both, learning both,” she said. They were notified in 2018 that the business was being sold. The new owners would eventually partner with another entity and move to Boston. The Munfords, who are from the Central New York area and currently live in Syracuse, didn’t want to move. They decided to take on the metal part of the business and they retained some of their established customers.
She officially opened the business on Jan. 1, 2019.
The company turned a profit the first year, then hit a glitch in 2020 with the COVID-19 pandemic. While Punch and Die Metal Fabrication, as a manufacturer, could remain open during the shutdown, many of their customers were grappling with changes in their work production, which ultimately impacted her company. But they were able to bounce back, she said, and last year, did a gross of $600,000.
While the company hasn’t reached $1 million yet, Munford has her eye on that benchmark.
“That’s my next goal,” she said. “We’re getting there. It’s only our third year.”
Munford has other goals ahead for her company. An increase in building rent has her planning to move the company to a location on the south side of Syracuse this summer. Although the new space is smaller in square footage, the site has land on which she plans to expand. This location also brings them closer to many of their core customers and several vendors, she explained.
She has also received a $220,000 CFA (Consolidated Funding Application) grant. With the money, she plans for building improvements and machinery and for adding jobs. These grants are aimed at attracting businesses to the city’s south side. As part of the grant, she is required to add 10 jobs and she’s started to build up that number. The CFA monies are reimbursed after the recipients meet the necessary criteria.
Another facet of the business that might be considered an accomplishment in a manufacturing company, like Munford’s, is the sense of satisfaction that comes from creating something. “You took it from being just a sheet of metal to something fabricated into something beautiful. You have something at the end of the day to show what you actually did,” she said.
The job doesn’t come without some challenges. Munford said she’d like to see more of a collaboration as opposed to competition among area sheet metal companies. “I think there’s more than enough work out there for all of us” she said.
Although she said she doesn’t encounter a sense of hesitancy often among others, there are some people, who, when talking with her, will still ask to speak to the boss. She simply tells them, “I am the boss.”
She has found resources through the WISE Women’s Business Center and CenterState CEO. WISE has also paired her with a coach, who had also been in manufacturing. The two meet monthly to talk things out with each other.
“Having that kind of support and another person that knows what you have to deal with on a daily basis is great,” she said.