By Lisa Pett
In the front office of a local bicycle rack manufacturer, a trio of women are busy at work.
The women are Ashley Rassmussen, Staci Galloway and Traci Roberson and they manage the business founded by Dick “Rudy” Ruedebusch in 1991.
The company is currently owned by a five-way partnership, including Roberson, who is the president and Galloway, who is vice-president. Rassmussen manages sales and customer service.
Not only do the women work with an all-male production staff, the steel vendors who provide the raw materials for their products are often exclusively men.
Roberson laughs when she explains that she’s had vendors show up for meetings expecting her to be a man. “With the spelling of my name, they’re [usually] expecting a dude.”
After working for the company while attending college at UWSP, Roberson tried other jobs but kept finding herself back with the company.
“I tried other internships with other jobs but kept gravitating back towards here,” she said. “I don’t know if it was because the product was so weird or because it was out of my element but I just had to accept the fact that I love it here.”
Galloway adds, “Plus she gets to walk through a manufacturing facility in heels.”
Roberson learned the business from the ground up, from filing in the office up to general manage.
“When I became general manager years ago, I dealt with sales and customers. Then I became really interested in the production side–in the steel and hardware and how this whole thing comes together. But it took years.”
When she graduated, she told the owner she wanted one year to try as general manager. “I wanted a chance to make the company more profitable. If it didn’t work out, I would walk. And obviously, I’m still here.”
The company continued to grow.
Galloway came on board in 2008. At the time, her father was the sole owner. She is now vice-president of the company and in charge of the residential division.
With such a small operation and what all three women describe as “nimble” executive leadership, Rudy Rack branched out into producing bicycle storage racks for apartments and condominiums.
“We found we had residential customers who were ordering display racks,” said Galloway. “why not create what they needed?”
So the company created Cycle Storage Solutions for their clients with residential storage needs.
“One of the benefits of this size of company is that you can turn on a dime,” said Galloway.
Although it’s a small business in a niche market, Rudy Rack has over 2,000 customers.
“We sell our racks in 40 countries,” said Rassmussen. “We’re in all 50 states and every Canadian province.”
The women interact easily with one another and stress the family atmosphere of the company.
“We’ve all started families in the past few years,” said Galloway. “So we realize how important it is to be flexible.”
Rudy Rack usually provides bicycle racks for local events and races, including the United Way’s Duathalon and the Hostel Shoppe’s recumbent bicycle rally. These relationships keeps the company abreast of the changing trends and needs of the market.
The company has grown and survived the Great Recession with creativity and a smart group of problem solvers leading the way. They have 14 full-time production employees working in welding, assembly and shipping.
The employees hand-weld the racks, which are sent out for powder coating, and then painted and shipped from the Dixon Street facility.
Rudy Rack’s website is www.rudyrack.com.