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Muskego-based Sanitary Fittings recently made its debut on the 2021 Inc. 5000 list, an annual ranking of the nation’s fastest-growing companies. The five-year-old company came in at No. 714 with a three-year revenue growth of 687%, making it the third-highest ranked southeastern Wisconsin company this year. Sanitary Fittings is a customer service company founded by John Zabkowicz that provides stainless steel tube fittings to food, beverage and pharmaceutical industries. John’s wife, Rachel Zabkowicz, who previously worked in corporate finance, took over as co-owner last year and today oversees operations at the fully remote company, while John remains involved in the business. Rachel recently spoke with BizTimes associate editor Lauren Anderson about the company’s origins and recent growth spurt.
How did the company get its start?
“We had always talked about starting our own business, but the timing was never right, or it seemed too big of a risk leaving two secure jobs. So, (John) lost his job in 2016 and it made us reevaluate, OK, where do we go from here? At the time, I was fortunate enough to have a great job that could support our family. So, he decided to see what he could do as an entrepreneur. It was actually through a very casual conversation with our brother-in-law, who is in the sanitary fittings business, who mentioned that a lot of manufacturers and distributors were slow to adapt to e-commerce. We did some research and found that to be generally true, and it was not a very capital-intensive way to start up a business. John could do the computer programming, he had a lot of experience with SEO, I have a finance background, … and so it was just an investment of his time to build the website and figure out who the network of suppliers could be. It seemed like a risk we were willing to take, and if it didn’t work out, we could go back to corporate America and carry on as we had been.”
So, it worked out?
“He had his first sale right before Christmas of 2016, and we’ve just seen wonderful growth since then. We have a good network of suppliers that we work with. And we made the decision in 2018 that I would join the business, but we had to develop our exit plan for me and make sure we felt secure with me leaving my job in corporate America. So, I left in spring of 2020 right as COVID was hitting, which was a little bit nerve-wracking. And I became the majority owner a few months later.”
How does your company fill a need in the market?
“A lot of companies have websites, but it was ‘here’s our product catalog.’ There was no pricing online, it was ‘here’s a list of our products, call for a quote.’ And I think a lot of companies still go to our suppliers for a big project, but the niche we fill is ‘I need to buy a stainless steel fitting just to repair my production line.’ They may not want to go all the way to their supplier when they can just search online and see Sanitary Fittings has it in stock, they can ship it out today, and I can get it tomorrow.”
Do you expect to stay remote going forward?
“With the size of team we’re at right now, the remote work seems to be going well. We’re still in constant communication with each other. And because we’ve always operated that way, it doesn’t seem like anything’s missing. Also, I think we all enjoy the flexibility that remote work offers us.”
Does making the Inc. 5000 open up new opportunities?
“Yes, we’re definitely hopeful for that. There’s marketing opportunities and networking opportunities. And hopefully that can continue to help us grow. Being a woman-owned business now, that’s also part of our growth strategy.”
Rachel Zabkowicz Co-owner Sanitary Fittings P.O. Box 295, Muskego Employees: Fewer than 10 sanitaryfittings.us