After carving out a 20-year career in the specialty and fine chemicals industry, Beth Bosley, 49, identified a market need that matched her technical skills in the specialized area of inorganic boron hydride chemistry—and wasted no time acting on it.
Three years ago, she launched Ambridge, Pa.-based Boron Specialties, which develops chemicals, materials, and applications that leverage the specific properties of boron. With a product portfolio heavy in high-value boranes and borohydrides, the company commercializes new boron-based technologies for life sciences, electronics, energy, and other applications. It also provides services in product and process development, market development, product safety practices, and regulatory compliance management.
To be “efficient and agile” from day one, Bosley used personal savings to start the company. She first focused on consulting and managing the production of inorganic boron hydrides for customers that could not find them commercially available from reliable suppliers. She outsourced production in the U.S. through toll manufacturing, an arrangement in which a company that has specialized equipment processes raw materials or semifinished goods for another firm.
Boron Specialties then began distributing a few fine chemicals for which there is no U.S. manufacturer. Finally, as a way to further the company’s product development goals and continue to drive growth, Bosley made the bold decision to build a lab for small-volume manufacturing and to hire chemists. The company, which is expected to post sales of $1 million to $1.5 million in 2013, now has six employees.
To keep costs down, Boron Specialties leased a 6,000-sq-ft building on the site of a former steel mill (now the Ambridge Regional Distribution & Manufacturing Center). “If I had leased ready-made lab space, particularly in a high-tech incubator, the company’s lease costs would be about five times higher,” Bosley says. “The route I took required knowing how to build a lab and having enough personal capital to do it. In the end, the company ended up with a lab specifically suited to its chemistries.” To further trim costs, the company bought all of its equipment on the used market at reasonable prices, she says.
When starting Boron Specialties, Bosley recognized that her time is best focused on customers and product development. Consequently, she feels fortunate to be able to turn over management of the financial aspects of her business to her husband, Brett. When launching a new entity, she says, “it helps to have a strong partner with complementary experience to share the load and exchange ideas.”
She has also benefited from the ACS Entrepreneurial Initiative, a program that provides chemical entrepreneurs with affordable access to training and resources they can use to launch and grow their businesses.
As CEO of Boron Specialties, Bosley gets satisfaction out of being able to apply her entire slate of skills and broad experience—gained in management, regulatory, business development, and production functions in her prior jobs. That’s something she’s never been able to do before, she says.