The Summerland Review is running a series featuring profiles of business people in the community.
This week, we chatted with Lara Hughes of Ripley Stainless Ltd.
There’s a sense of family as soon as one walks through the doors at Ripley Stainless Ltd.
The business, established in 1979, has been manufacturing stainless steel tanks for wineries, breweries, cideries and distilleries. More recently, Ripley Stainless has also been manufacturing hot tubs.
The business was started by Ed Ripley and over the years, his children have worked at the factory.
“At nine, I was answering phones and washing toilets as a part-time job,” recalls Lara Hughes, the oldest of 12 Ripley children — seven biological and five adopted.
Ed Ripley is now working to pass the business to the second generation.
“Our plan is to grow,” Hughes said. “We want to be here another 40 years.”
Today, the business has 45 employees and is continuing to grow, but Hughes said the family atmosphere is continuing.
She said she works to get to know each member of the staff personally. “It’s all about family and being there for their lives,” she said.
However, because of the growth of the business, Ripley Stainless is now evolving into something beyond a family-run operation.
Today, Hughes, her brother Wayne and her father are among those managing the business, while six more members of the family work on the manufacturing floor.
There are also two members of the leadership team who are not part of the Ripley family.
Hughes said their presence has helped bring new perspectives to the decision-making process.
The business has been expanding and changing over the years.
In the past, the business would lay off employees during the slow months in January and February, but today the business operates without the annual layoffs.
Hughes said one of the values at Ripley Stainless is in standing behind the products and providing the best quality possible. She recalls her father driving overnight to Calgary to fix a tank for a customer, as he wanted to be there first thing in the morning to make the repair.
While that trip has resulted in a loyal customer and repeat business, Hughes said her father made the trip as a way of standing behind his products.
The company also places a value on community involvement and works to hire locally and deal with local suppliers as much as possible.
While many of the second generation of the Ripley family are now working with the business, their father Ed Ripley is beginning to step back.
“In his free time, he’s ranching,” Hughes said. “He’s a farmer at heart.”
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