Client Name: Aaron and Adria Bagshaw
Business Name: Walter Bat Company
Business Website: https://walterbats.com/
Industry: Manufacturing/Sporting Good
Location: Nashua, NH
SBDC Advisor's Name: Hollis McGuire
It may have been fate when Aaron and Adria Bagshaw first met on a blind date in 2000. Adria, who was working in manufacturing, was intrigued to meet Aaron, who was also in manufacturing. But for Aaron, it was in his blood. His great-great-grandfather, Walter Henry Bagshaw started WH Bagshaw, a manufacturing company in 1870. Aaron and Adria wed in 2002 and today, together they own and operate WH Bagshaw, now a fifth-generation family business that makes precision metal pins and offers high precision Swiss-style CNC turned parts.
But, how does a family business such as WH Bagshaw withstand the test of time? For many, it’s about getting different generations involved, tapping into everyone’s strengths and interests, and having the willingness and ability to diversify and evolve. So, in 2020 after participating in a program through Babson College about what makes a family business successful, the Bagshaws began to have conversations about what this would mean for them.
2020 was also a great year of reflection for Adria and Aaron as WH Bagshaw celebrated 150 years in business. They looked back over the 20 years they’d been in charge and began to look ahead at the next 15-20. The goal for them wasn’t to maximize the business for sale, but rather to fortify it so their kids could work in it, but if they didn’t, to structure it to allow them to manage the company and maintain ownership. Adria shares, “we realized that if we can diversify it a little bit, it might give them more opportunities to stay involved.”
At the time, their son was a high school baseball pitcher who happened to have a coach who made baseball bats and was starting to get out of that business. So, that was the initial light bulb. Adria says, “We talked about what would we do? How could we diversify? What would tap into our son’s interest and strengths?”
So, in late 2020/early 2021, when the opportunity presented itself to take over that pitching coach’s bat business, the Bagshaws jumped on it. “It went from a guy making bats in a garage to us,” says Adria. Walter Bat Company, with another nod to Aaron’s great-great-grandfather was born, complete with a logo that bears Walter’s signature from when he was naturalized as an American citizen in 1887.
Walter Bat Company makes personalized, hand-crafted wood bats using the same concepts as the process of turning metal into components. In addition to bats, Walter Bat Company also sells apparel and will soon open a new training center, complete with a pro shop.
In speaking about this new extension of their manufacturing business, Adria explains, “We have these capabilities, we see an alignment, we had a very big why. We wanted a different way to interact with the community to get the word out about manufacturing. It really felt like a good tie into who we are.”
For guidance with this big shift, the Bagshaws turned to their trusted NH SBDC business advisor Hollis McGuire, whom they’d worked with since around 2008. “That's part of our strategy now,” says Adria.
“When things shift with our business, when we're at a crossroads, when we're making a strategic change, we just know now to pull Hollis in for a consultation.”
Hollis sometimes provides them reassurance that they’re doing the right thing and they’ve got their bases covered, while other times, she reminds them of things they should check on, or different angles to consider.
Adria adds, “She's just become a really trusted advisor. And we've worked together for more than 10 years now, so she has the basics of our business. I feel like I've almost gotten my MBA from her, I’ve learned so much.”
What’s more, Hollis was able to connect Adria and Aaron with fellow NH SBDC business advisor Rita Toth who is especially adept with marketing strategy. About Rita, Adria shares, “She was great in pointing us in the direction of data. She gave us some tips on how to finetune and hone what we were doing from a social media standpoint.”
While Adria and Aaron have mainly used NH SBDC’s one on one advising, they also enjoy attending SBDC’s workshops and participating in their surveys. “We get so much information that’s helpful,” says Adria.
Today, Adria and Aaron look forward to the continued growth of Walter Bat Company, along with its parent company, WH Bagshaw.
And, for those business owner who haven’t taken advantage of NH SBDC yet, Adria says,
“I always say that it's our secret weapon. You can't even find the kind of expertise that you get with the SBDC, and to have it be so capable and free is...I just can't believe we're so lucky.”