I love and appreciate the entrepreneurs I come across. I came across Ken Parent on LinkedIn and knew we had to have him as a guest on MakingChips. So on episode #352 of Making Chips Seasons, Ken shares why he’s 100% transparent about the good, the bad, and the ugly he’s experienced in the manufacturing space. Ken Parent is inspiring the manufacturing industry with his candid nature.
Learn more about Ken Parent and Parent Manufacturing
After Ken and his wife moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma, Ken saw an ad on Craigslist for free CNC courses through the local technical college. He took four classes a week, for four hours a night, for four months.
The first job he applied for was running mills. He had no idea what he was doing but they hired him anyway. Eventually, the company was bought out, so he moved to a different company. But they didn't have setup sheets or processes. It was a shop that gave manufacturing and machining a bad name.
He moved on to another job that was just him and one other guy. He started with the basics and walked him through fixing machines, programming, etc. But when covid hit, his boss moved everything back home and let him go.
Ken worked at Smith Titanium in Broken Arrow for a year and learned a lot. During this time, Ken purchased a machine and decided to launch a shop out of his garage.
Why Ken became an entrepreneur
Ken was running titanium race car parts for Formula 1 and Nascar—the best on the market. Sadly, they were forced to part ways. At the time, Ken had four kids. He and his wife decided that it was the right time for him to launch his own shop. He took out an SBA loan to start his business.
The Oklahoma Manufacturing Alliance is a state-funded organization designed to help connect manufacturers to promote manufacturing. Ken applied for a grant to help him purchase some of his equipment. After a year of waiting, he was approved for a $100,000 grant to help him build his business. But it hasn’t been easy. He didn’t make any money for the first three months. He didn’t know how they were going to pay their bills.
Things started to pick up and he started doing some work for another company. But they’d pay him so late that he’d have to backpay everything and be back at square one. These peopleknewhe had a family to feed and take care of. But they continued to play him. What made Ken decide to share his day-to-day challenges on LinkedIn?
How LinkedIn has become a community of support
Ken’s goal was to leverage LinkedIn to find work but it developed into a place to share his challenges.
He wanted to be a resource for people. He’s shared the times he stayed up for 36 hours because a customer needed parts and he needed work. Another time he shared a photo of the $15 left in his business account and said “This is what happens when people don’t pay your invoices.”
He emphasizes that if you want to be a business owner, you have to be prepared for the hard times. You have to be prepared to shuffle bills. Ken says the things that other people are too scared to share on social media.
He gets thousands of views and hundreds of comments. 99% of people in machining encourage him. Throughout this journey, Ken learned that the manufacturing industry is always willing to help each other.
Ken received numerous messages from people who were struggling right alongside him. It allows him to encourage others through the hard times. They’re learning from what he’s saying, taking notes, and preparing themselves for the day they’ll start their own business. Ken is careful not to fall into the trap of justlookingsuccessful.
The impact of the manufacturing community on his family
Ken is a parent to seven—soon to be eight—kids. He and his wife feel called to foster numerous kids who don’t have hope. It’s also the motivation for everything he does. He’s able to be home more often.
When Ken’s son turned 12, he took the day off from school and asked to work with his dad for his birthday. His son helped him run some parts. Ken posted a photo on social media and shared his son’s story.
Before they adopted him, his life was nothing but violence. He was on five anti-psychotic meds when they started fostering him. He was severely overweight because his last home sat him in front of a TV and fed him. In two years, he’s become a completely different kid.
The President of Mitutoyo saw Ken’s post and surprised his son and sent him a metrology book and a micrometer set. That wouldn’t happen in any other industry.
Ken’s long-term hope is to open his shop so other foster kids can work with him and learn a trade. Learn more about Ken’s heart for family and manufacturing inepisode #352of the MakingChips podcast!
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