Vietnam Vet Finds Startup Success in Metalwork

July 16, 2014

Fred Ingram learned a wealth of blacksmith and heavy equipment skills while serving in the Marines during the Vietnam War. He would later apply these valuable abilities to spend over 30 years laboring as a union iron worker. Recently, Ingram got the itch to try his hand at startup success by opening the doors to his own entrepreneurial endeavor.

Ingram, a 1-800Accountant client, serves as the proud CEO of DD Patriot, LLC. (DD stands for Devil Dog, a motivational nickname for Marines.) The small business is based out of Ingram’s home office in Bellmawr, New Jersey and officially launched in January 2014. His wife, Gwen, is a co-owner in the company.

DD Patriot, LLC offers a variety of custom metalwork services primarily for commercial properties. Ingram’s biggest client is a popular bakery that’s expanding to multiple locations.

“I do small structural work with stainless steel, brass, aluminum, and other metals,” Ingram explains. “I draw up the job, get the parts and materials for it, and then weld it all together.”

Over the years, Ingram has racked up a list of metal structures he has designed at some well-known sites. He created a 16-by-10-foot metal platform outside the entryway of a Macy’s store. He also constructed a 200-foot canopy with beautiful chandeliers and skylights between the World Trade Center towers many years before the September 11th attacks. In addition, he worked for a company that did construction on the stadiums in Philadelphia that are home to the Eagles, Phillies, and Flyers.

He talks about what ultimately convinced him that starting a business was the thing to do at this point in his career.

“I wanted to start this business because I do have some clients on a fairly large scale. But, at the same time, I’m not getting in over my head.”

Like many entrepreneurs, he says the ability to achieve financial freedom also played into his decision.

“I’ve made millionaires become multimillionaires in my life, so I felt like it was time for me to make some money for my own family.”

Through lots of hard work and patience, entrepreneurs quickly learn what keys they need to unlock the doors to startup success. Ingram points to the trust he builds with clients and the skill set he has honed over time.

“I’m an expert at what I do, and the clients I have lined up to work for have complete confidence in me,” he says. “The skills I have are definitely in demand right now. Work tends to find me rather than me having to find it.”

Competition is often a big part of the small business environment. However, Ingram notes that his industry is a bit different. He says there are a few large companies that offer similar metalwork services, but their rates tend to be significantly higher than his. Plus, he prides himself on the ability to take a more customized approach with clients.

As for advertising, DD Patriot, LLC has not had to use traditional strategies – thanks in large part to referrals.

“Word-of-mouth is a big part of it,” Ingram explains. “I really don’t have to advertise since I honestly get more work than what my company can do at this point.”

Ingram admits there have been plenty of challenges to starting a business and making it profitable.

“I had to spend a lot of money getting everything set up – a computer, a phone system, a printer, and other equipment.”

He explains what persuaded him to op for an LLC as his business structure.

“I chose an LLC for tax purposes and the liability protection,” he says. “I didn’t want to get a full corporation. I can always incorporate down the road.”

Advice for Aspiring Small Business Owners

He offers some insightful tips for entrepreneurs looking to make it big.

“To have a successful business, you need a very good product or service that is in demand. Give your customers the value for their dollar, and they’ll be back to see you. Funding was a big challenge for me as well, so you have to have enough money to do this. Starting a business can be so much more expensive than you think.”

There are both pros and cons to small business ownership, Ingram adds.

“There are tax advantages to it that you should really explore. The freedom is also a big plus. On the other hand, you sometimes have to work long hours with no weekends off.”

Experience with 1-800Accountant

As a client of 1-800Accountant, he says the national accounting and consulting firm has been a huge help to assisting him achieve startup success.

“I’ve been very satisfied with 1-800Accountant’s support,” Ingram says. “I have had very good luck with each person I’ve talked to, especially when getting my taxes filed. I would definitely recommend the company to others.”

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