Small Chemical Businesses


Did you ever wish you had your own business? Bored? Hate your boss? Fear retirement? Maybe you have a really good idea for a product – would you rather sell it to a big company or develop it yourself?

A surprising number of chemists own their own small chemical businesses. As defined by the Small Business Administration, a small business is one with fewer than 500 employees. These small businesses create about 75% of the new jobs added to the economy and employ about 50% of the private work force. The small chemical businesses include custom synthesis, product distribution, testing laboratories, product formulating, scientific translation, and patent attorneys.

With only three employees, V-Labs, Inc. (Covington, LA) certainly meets the definition of a small business. The carbohydrate and flavor consulting laboratory is owned by Sharon V. Vercellotti (president). Sharon explains, “We started in carbohydrates before they were fashionable. Now with the growth of biotechnology, they are astoundingly fashionable!” The second employee is John R. Vercellotti, PhD (vice president and Sharon’s husband), and the third is a combination lab technician and office assistant. They supplement the staff with student workers, both college and high school students.

Jane Thomas’s Wyoming Analytical Laboratories, Inc. (Laramie, WY) has 20 employees working in four labs in Wyoming and Colorado. She was doing coal anaylses at a University of Wyoming lab when a customer suggested that she start and manage a commercial laboratory. Thomas resisted at first, but over a 2-year period, saw that there was much demand for a coal analysis lab. Her business has evolved since 1977 when it was founded: “It started as a coal lab. We did all types of coal testing. Some of our customers needed water analysis, so we expanded into water testing and then into environmental sampling.”

Striking out on your own takes courage and a bit of luck. Ronald Versic says, I am the type of person who enjoys making money. I always sold things when I was in school. At a certain point, I became dissatisfied working for a large business. It was a life-altering experience when I became disenchanted with my employer.” Versic went on to found the Ronald T. Dodge Co. (Dayton, OH) which does microencapsulation – preparing coated particles for industrial, pharmaceutical, cosmetic, and other applications. “We do all types of encapsulation, we are oriented toward manufacturing, and we follow high ethical standards.”

The biggest obstacle to starting your own business is money. Chemical entrepreneurs finance their businesses with various combinations of bank loans, government grants, personal contributions, and thrifty lifestyles. Versic said that Ronald T. Dodge Co. was also self-financed. “I put $500 in the bank as capitalization. Then we borrowed against the value of our house. There were no personal loans or venture capital. Now we have money in the bank.” Versic did not take a salary at first and depended on his wife’s job for income and benefits. He recommends deferred gratification so that you can plow money back into the business and finance the growth internally.

The entrepreneurs recommend the ACS Division of Small Chemical Businesses (DSCHB) as a way to learn from those who know – the other small chemical business people. DSCHB’s programming at the National Meetings provides symposia on topics of interest to small businesses and opportunities to network. The Division also subsidizes the cost of a booth at the National Meeting Exhibition.

Small chemical business people find their businesses to be stressful but full of variety and fun. “You have to deal with all the problems yourself,” says Jane Thomas. “Little businesses are inherently inefficient,” says Ron Versic. “You have to do things yourself.” He cites safety training of employees as one of the things he does, which another person would do in a large business.

The uncertainty of that next contract is worrying for most small business people. “You have to be confident that someone will call on Monday morning,“ says Sharon Vercelotti. “You don’t know what the client’s request will be. You have to be open to new challenges.”

Nonetheless, when asked if they enjoy having their own businesses, most small chemical business people say “I love it!”

Anne Kuhlmann Taylor, PhD (ACS ’67), is a consultant and technical writer based in Baton Rouge, LA. Previously, she was an analytical chemist in the pharmaceutical industry. Working with CTD Quality Consulting, she writes, edits, and critiques documents for the pharmaceutical industries. She is Councilor from the Baton Rouge Section of ACS and serves on the Committee on Community Activities.

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60 Responses to Small Chemical Businesses

  1. Cong Trinh says:

    I am currently a PhD student in Chemistry. I have been thinking about starting a chemical small business. I am interested in renewable energy and related topics. As I know, there are a lot of things that we have to deal with in order to start a business. But the most important thing that I’ve never come up with is how to start if you just finish your PhD study and do not have financial resources.
    I really need some advices from experts in this area since I am still a PhD student and I have time to think and to learn. I appreciate your helps and comments. You can reach me at congtrin@usc.edu.
    Thank you.

  2. lhgould says:

    In response to your posting, I recommend that you go to your local SCORE (Counelors to American Small Business) http://www.score.org/index.html. They can assist you with the business tools to get started. They are a great local resource. You can look for individual investors but that maybe be difficult in these economic times. Some states may have seed money to support and invest in “Incubator Companies”. I was told recently that Massachusetts has such programs. You will need to do some research and present a solid buisness plan to be awarded. SCORE can assist with getting you started. You will have to do the work.
    Liane Gould
    Manager of Career Services

  3. Joe Sabol says:

    I agree, SCORE can help, as well as your local/state EDC. Don’t overlook your state DOC or equivalent, for both the regs you need to follow and for help along the way.

    If you attend ACS NMs or RMs, consider attending SCHB symp. SCHB provides programming that gives practical information to those wanting to start a small chemical business, including presentations by current sucessful small business owners on what they learned along the way. In addition to 237nm SLC and 238nm WDC, SCHB will be at GLRM (May, Chicago), CERMACS (May, Cleveland), SERMACS (Oct, San Juan PR), and SWRM (Nov, El Paso). Also, consider becoming a member of SCHB.

  4. [...] chemists and ACS members have started their small business? How did they strike out on their own? Read more… (No Ratings Yet) • SHARETHIS.addEntry({ title: “Small chemical businesses – stories from [...]

  5. Mike Murray says:

    I am considering starting a small business that creates and distributes organic lawn care products. Specifically we are looking at a product the eliminates brown spots in lawns. How would I find out what licenses I would need and any regulations that I would have to comply to?

  6. John Robson says:

    I am located in pakistan right now and i am a fresh graduate in chemical industry. As the education level is upto the bechalor level but i want to grow career into my own business.Into an environment that i shall generate. I am looking for further studies upto phd level but i am concerned about the choice of field that i have to go to,a field that can provide an opportunity to make money.Can you assist me with that.

  7. Mike says:

    How well can a small chemical busines compete wit hgiants like BASF and DOW in this market? Must be a tough haul indeed.

  8. Joe Sabol says:

    Mike,
    I, and the others whom I know in comments above, do not compete w/ giants. For myself, I define my own market and tailor a plan to get customers – for what I offer and advantages over the competition. BASF and Dow have a substantial business in commodities and price and delivery terms make all the difference. To be successful as a small business, you need to offer something the giants do not.

  9. Business says:

    Hi, I ever bookmarked you before. But somehow I loose it. I’m back here from Yahoo SE. You still have a nice article. Thanks for share…

  10. Umair Rehman says:

    I’m a fresh chemical engineer for the University of Engineering and Technology,Lahore,Pakistan. I want to pursue my career as a businessman.Upto the graduation level, we have been taught about the physical operations and hence no knowledge about the compositions or how to introduce new products and stuff like that. Can you give me some guideline about what should i do further in order to meet my requirement and what field should i choose ? My email id is isitfinenow@hotmail.com

  11. Rana says:

    UMairi.

    You can consult your UET advisor, They usually have many projects and funding as well.

    Contact Dr Inam, Chemistry Dept, He may be helpfull

  12. JAY KUMAR SINGH says:

    I want to know about small chemical business industry with very low cost , also which is most profitable

  13. Uhmmm.. Chemical.. Low cost… We aren’t talking about garage labs here are we??

  14. This is a great article. Thanks for sharing this informative post.I will visit your blog regularly for some latest post. :)

  15. irfan ahmad says:

    Sir,
    i have started my chemical manufacturing business in a very small scale, manufacturing surface treatment chmicals, working with small scale industries to be confident to get entered into the large scale industries, for which i need guideline to introduce me as a large industrial supplier, which no doubt required quite tough presentations and preparations, please guide me in this respect, what should i do?

  16. A.Venkateswara Reddy says:

    i want start small chemical business from today.so pl can you tell me which is best for latest chemical business.

  17. samree says:

    i am mba graduate and dont have any knowledge of chemical but want to start any business related to chemical. but how to start dont know , please show me the way.

  18. adeola adeyemi says:

    am a nigerian and i want to start the sales of chemicals (agrochemicals, paperchemicals and all) befoore i venture into the production of some of the chemicals, thereafter in the nearest future. how do i go about it? how do i start?

  19. vaibhav says:

    HI,I am Vaibhav I think to start my electroplating chemical business in small scale.plz.suggest me all of things which is realated in this. and how to i manage finance.I am in ashu71t@rediffmail.com 9045353059

  20. nswe says:

    Here is a good website on this topic.

    http://www.scientistshub.com

    Meeting a partner for ideas sounds actually quite good.

  21. Debarshi saha says:

    Hi,i am presently pursuing my graduatn in chemistry (h) … I am nw in d final year… After my graduatn i m planning to strt a business in the field of chemicals.. Bt i dnt knw d various fields of chemical business.. Plz tel me wat are d diff. Areas relatd to chemicals in which i cud strt my business. Or please suggest me some websites in which i may find d fields…

  22. SAJAL JAIN says:

    Dear Sir

    I want to start a new business in chemical field i also have a exp in latex compounding and currently i start with trading of chemical but now we want to manufacturer may you suggest to me what type of business is suitable for me.

  23. patil nitin m. says:

    dear sir please suggest me

  24. ranjit says:

    what kind of work i can start . which can provide me world status. best margin.

  25. continuously i used to read smaller articles which also
    clear their motive, and that is also happening with this piece of writing which I
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  26. latika says:

    latika reddy says

    i am doing ph.d in medicinal chemistry, and i am planning to start small scale chemical labouratory….. so plz explain me the basic requirements to do so………plz plz

  27. Pathik Doshi says:

    hi everyone,
    I will be completing my masters in finance and i want to start a business in food chemicals manufacturing, as a commerce student can anyone help me how do i start with my business.

  28. ziba parsi says:

    Hi , I am an anlytical chemist with a phd from university of waterloo, ontario, canada. I have noticed that finding a job which I feel good and enjoy it is hard. I am a very hard worker and I think I would be better off to start my owen business. I am back to school and taking Project Management program to make myself familiar with business environment and also buy some times to think and research the possibilities. If any body can give me some advises, I would appreciate. I am looking for a mentor who has good experiences in chemistry business.

    • reza says:

      I can help. Please contact me by bioanalyser@gmail.com

    • morty says:

      i have Ph D and more than 12 years chemical manufacturing experiences from small scale to large scale
      i like to find a good team to start business

      • Mat! says:

        Hi Morty! I am a Chemical Engineer with Management degree (both at graduate levels here in Germany) with no work experience yet asides Internships but I am very passionate about setting out on my own or with a small team like you intend doing…If you need someone with enthusiasm and passion….Kindly let me know

      • Hanmant says:

        Hanmant: Hi Morty.. I am looking for to start my own business. If you are interested in joining or helping with me please write to me. I am postgraduate chemical engineer from India. ,y email id : mh.iitm@gmail.com

      • Jessie Wang says:

        Hi, Guys,

        I am an organic synthesis chemist with master’s degree from university of Waterloo and several years’ working experience. I am also thinking about chemical business. I would be appreciated if anybody can also give me some advice or like to be a business partner. Please contact me by jessielw@gmail.com

      • Paul says:

        Morty, I will obtain my PHD in organic synthesis in the following month. I am a very motivated, efficient chemist and looking into business venture. I would love to hear more about your team work.

      • Hello Morty!
        I am Harisa from Malaysia, Bachelor in Science (Applied Chemistry). I have planning to start my own business in chemical industry. but, i dont know how to start with. i am very passionate to strike and grab a big opportunity.
        As currently i am working as sales engineer in waste water treatment industry, my company also supply some of chemical in water industry.From here, i want to start my own business slowly as i need to gain my experience.

        Please kindly contact me.

        munisrush@gmail.com

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  32. dchevli says:

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  33. I am a chemical engineer.
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  36. Dusan says:

    I am looking for chemical start-up ideas/opportunities/partners. I am a synthetic organic chemist with MBA degree and experience in product management – I was involved in R&D, development, and launch of over 100 chemical products. If you have chemical business idea or novel product and interest in partnering, please contact me to discuss the opportunity.

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    innovation@polymorphgroup.com

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  39. PRAVIN AHIRRAO says:

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  40. sankar says:

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  41. Luzuko Banjwa says:

    HI ALL STUDENTS,

    I WOULD SUGGEST THAT AFTER OU HAVE GRDUATED YOU MUST GO AND WORK FIRST FOR COUPLE OF YEARS AND PUT YOUR BUSSINESS STARTING IDEA ON HOLD FOR NOW. DURING THAT WORKING PERIOD IT IS WHERE BY YOU WILL LEARN SOME SKILLS AND OTHER ASPECTS OF CHEMISTRY. I ALSO NEER THOUGH THAT QUALITY IS THIS INTERESTING AND NOW IN FUTURE I WILL BE IN CHEMICAL SALES, ALL THOSE THINGS CAME FROM WORK EXPERIENCE. ALSO ON YOUR WORK IN LAB OR PLANT ENGINEERING YOU NEED TO REACH A LEVEL OF CONFIDENCE THEN YOU CAN BE PROMOTED THEN YOU WILL KNOW NOW SOME PRODUCTION TRICKS AND COMPOUNDS THAT ARE HIDDEN IN PRODUCT FORMULATION. IN ALL THAT PERIOD YOU CAN DICOVER WHERE IS YOUR PASSION I WAS ALSO LIKE THAT THE DREAMS THAT YOU HAVE AS A STUDENT MIGHT CHANGE WHEN YOU WORK PLEASE ALLOW THAT CHANGE. AFTER RECEIVING ALL THESE EXPERIENCES SKY IS THE LIMIT. THAT JUST MY POOR SUGGESTION DONT OPEN BUSSINESS WITHOUT INDUSTRIAL EXPERIENCE IN YOUR FIELD OF STUDY, YOU CAN LOSE MONEY AND AS A CHEMIST IF YOU HAVE NEVER WORKED WHO IS GOING TO RUN YOUR PRODUCTION LINE? BE HANDS ON AT FIRST EVEN THOUGH IT CAN BE YOUR BUSSINESS THEN WITH TIME EMPLOY PEOPLE WHO CAN RUN TECHNICAL FOR YOU. GO WORK FELLOWS THEN PURSUE THOSE DREAMS AFTER SEVERAL YEARS OF EXPERIENCE.

  42. usman naveed says:

    I want to start chemical trading business and don,t have any experience please tell me how to gain experience in this field ,are there any courses in order to help in starting chemical trading business.

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  44. I’m a graduate of chemical/petrochemical engineering, and am looking forward to starting a business in environmental pollution control and renewable energy. Please advise me on this business.

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  47. Dr. says:

    Hello,
    I am a Doctorate in Chemical and biochem engineering from a Canadian Univ. I have background of polymer (biomaterials, cosmetic and membrane science)background. I am interested in starting my own company but do not have any financial support.
    Please advise me. Also, looking for like minded people who would be interested to join me. my email dr.mohar1@gmail.com
    Thaks

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