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Monday, March 29, 1999
 
1999 Small Business profiles

Bedrock Industries: Hard work and a passion for recycling create a successful business

by Jake Batsell
Seattle Times staff reporter

Owner/president: Maria Ruano
Location: Bedrock Industries, Seattle
Number of employees: 20
Annual sales: about $500,000

Maria Ruano, 45, started Bedrock Industries - an Interbay business that converts recycled material into tile, stone and tumbled-glass products - in 1992, financing the venture mostly with credit cards. She previously ran a tile-making business, but wanted to start another enterprise based on her passion for recycling.

"I just thought, this will be fine. . . . It'll work out," she said. But Ruano soon found out how time-consuming and financially draining owning a business can be: She and her husband incurred nearly $80,000 in debt.

Ruano doesn't draw an annual salary and took home about $8,000 last year. "I think not knowing how much responsibility it takes is what makes people decide to go into business for themselves," she said. "If they knew, they wouldn't do it. It's really, really hard."

But Ruano's perseverance is beginning to pay off. Bedrock has become a profitable business. It generated nearly $500,000 in sales last year and won the Mayor's Small Business Award for 1998-99.

"It's about, for me, having my work fit with my philosophy," she said. "It's not enough for me to put the bottle in the recycling container and take it out to the street."

Ruano says she'd like to be retired in five years, though she hopes the business thrives well into the future. In the meantime, to finance growth, Bedrock is using a loan obtained through Capital Community Development, a lending organization that targets Seattle small businesses. The loan funds were used for capital costs, such as buying new kilns and a glass-crushing machine.

Ruano said her biggest worries are sustaining growth and avoiding the seasonal lulls.

"I need to figure a way to not have the big peaks and deep valleys," she said.

Her advice to other business owners?

"Don't be afraid to ask for more than you need. If you think you need $50,000, ask for 75. And it's so important to have a business plan, and to have everything managed correctly."

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