Addison, Illinois-based pipe fitting manufacturer Billco Corp., has some neat history behind it.
In business as an American-based manufacturer of pipe fittings since 1973, the company is in its third generation of woman-owned ownership. Current President Emily Lutes’ grandfather started the business and Lutes’ grandmother, Joan, and mother, Amy, succeeded her in company ownership.
Billco recently celebrated that lineage by achieving certification as a women’s business enterprise (WBE) through the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council, the nation’s largest third-party certifier of businesses owned and operated by women in the United States.
“We’ve been woman-owned for more than 20 years and decided to take the leap and get certified,” Lutes told me recently. “The certification process was long, but we’re really excited about it. This certification helps us recognize supplier diversity. It helps bring diversity to the supply chain.”
Lutes pointed out large projects have requirements where certain percentages of work must go to minority-owned businesses. “We’re hopeful this will help our customers with that need,” she says. “We recognize the commitment to supplier diversity that is embraced by corporations and government agencies today. A lot of our corporate accounts know we have been woman-owned. They kept approaching us about getting the third-party certification. We needed that and wanted it.”
Lutes is hopeful this certification will help Billco further its upward trajectory in the pipe fittings arena. It specializes in manufacturing domestic bushings, caps, plugs and couplings in various materials, including steel, lead-free brass, stainless steel, steel tubing and cast-iron. Its products end up in anything from plumbing applications and transportation to fire-protection projects to rail cars to boiler and water-heater applications. The company employs 24 individuals and works out of a 30,000-square-foot corporate headquarters in the western Chicago suburbs.
And Billco, an ASA member, continues to be a true family affair. Lutes’ brother, Ryan, is vice president of operations, while brother, Shane, is the company’s maintenance technician. Her husband, Brian, is the plant accountant. Lutes’ father, Steve Cochran, still works in the company and is nearing retirement. He is assisting in proper succession planning.
“We’ve seen growth recently, especially in our coupling line and with our specials line,” says Lutes, who notes the company is in the process of receiving its small-business certification as well.
Lutes notes Billco, which has enjoyed ISO certification for more than 10 years now, prides itself on being a 100% U.S.-based manufacturer. “Everything in our line is manufactured in the U.S., and 95% of our raw material is domestic as well,” she says. “We take pride in our service. We keep large inventory levels to provide our customers with same-day shipping and one-to-three days for full-freight orders.”
As for the future of this woman-owned business? More of the same. “More growth is what we are looking forward to seeing, and continuing to provide a quality American-made product to our customers,” Lutes says.