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ENTREPRENEUR PROFILES

2.11.99  
"I Just Want To Say One Word..."
An Entrepreneur Learns to Love Plastics

The plastics business was no more alluring for Bradley D. Berkley than for Dustin Hoffman's character in The Graduate. But that didn't stop the 28-year-old from building a specialty plastics company that has grown to $10 million in sales and 100 employees in four years.

Berkley entered the industry as a sales rep while earning a University of Kansas business degree in 1992, and took a full-time job after graduation. At first, he says, "I hated plastics." He wasn't thrilled by his $28,000 salary, either. But, he adds: "After about a year I started going, 'Wow, I see the potential here.'" With one startup under his belt -- a food exporter called Intraco that he co-founded in 1993 and still co-owns -- he went for another, establishing Global Tool & Engineering Inc. in October, 1994.

He started as a broker, finding suppliers for clients who needed customized products. By 1996, he was ready to make Carrollton (Tex.)-based Global a full-fledged manufacturer. With $2 million from Agio Capital Partners I of Minneapolis, he expanded fast -- indeed, a bit too fast. Over-capacity and quality problems forced him to shed two of four plants in 1997, which restored profitability.

While Global is little-known, its plastic parts are found in cell phones, baby monitors, and airline seats. Agility and speed, says Berkley, have won the company customers such as Motorola Inc. (MOT) and 3M.

Berkley hopes to sell Global this year to a joint-venture partner, CMS Hartzell, a privately held Richmond (Ky.) manufacturer. Deal or not, he's planning his next startup: a bank. Not like the one his grandfather founded and his father still runs in Downs, Kan. This will be an Internet venture -- "plastics" for the graduate of the '90s.

By Wendy Zellner in Dallas

This article was originally published in the Feb. 1, 1999 print edition of Business Week's Enterprise.


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