Client & Alumni News

Ben Franklin Opens Opportunities for Umbrella Maker

Expanding a business venture is much like adding children to a family. You are forced to embrace a host of additional concerns – mainly space, money, and proper attention.

American Holzkraft

American Holzkraft has been manufacturing market umbrellas, tables, chairs, benches, and outdoor furnishings for nearly 15 years.

With kids, most people choose not to go it alone. They usually have someone to share the responsibilities. But in the business world, where can one turn?

American Holtzkraft found a long-term partner in the Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania. Since 1989, Ben Franklin has helped the company successfully manage its steady growth.

Based in the rural central Pennsylvania community of Mount Pleasant Mills, the family-run business has been manufacturing market umbrellas, tables, chairs, benches, and outdoor furnishings for nearly 15 years. Combining imagination, high-quality materials, and renowned Pennsylvania Dutch craftsmanship, American Holtzkraft produces the finest large outdoor umbrellas in the industry, backed by outstanding service.

Expansion led to issues such as shop scheduling, inventory control, engineering upgrades, and, eventually, the need for more room. American Holtzkraft found Ben Franklin’s advice plentiful, practical, and—most importantly—feasible.

Stewards of Intelligent Growth

As the company grew from a small side business to a full-time venture, Ben Franklin was there to scrutinize all facets of the expansion.

“We started the company on our own, working in a barn basement, then a concrete shed that housed tractors and farm equipment,” says American Holtzkraft President Phil Apple. “We moved very quickly from one building to a larger one, then a larger one. Ben Franklin came in each time to help evaluate our manufacturing process.”

In addition to optimizing space, Ben Franklin brought in resources to make sure that the factory would work efficiently to meet increased demand.

“We were working with Bucknell University on a new, sophisticated umbrella when we realized we had other needs,” says Apple. “We were in the midst of setting up a manufacturing line but didn’t have a lot of experience doing it. Ben Franklin linked us with a consultant who had experience with other furnishings manufacturers, which was very helpful. Ben Franklin also made sure we met OSHA and environmental regulations for our paint booth, finishing area, and waste processes.”

And beyond the shop floor itself, Ben Franklin provided American Holtzkraft with counsel that helped create a business environment conducive for growth. This was vital as the American Holtzkraft family grew from 10 employees to 72.

“Not only did Ben Franklin staff assist with technical support, but they helped with setting up corporate- layer management and financing. This was necessary for us to expand,” says Apple.

Sink or Swim?

In addition to providing sage advice to American Holtzkraft, Ben Franklin provided the company with the resources and motivation to continue with its venture.

“In a way, we were halfway across a lake but were tired. You come to a point where you need to decide: do I continue forward or head back, even though it’s just as far to the other side?” said Apple. “Ben Franklin came along to give us that boost we needed to go all the way across.”

We would not have made it without Ben Franklin’s help. We would have sunk. Ben Franklin saw more potential in us than we ever saw.

Product/Service: High-quality market umbrellas, tables, chairs, benches, and other outdoor furnishings

Ben Franklin Involvement:

  • Investments totaling $350,000
  • Business operations assistance
  • Strategic planning and advice
  • Technical assistance through Bucknell University
  • Process improvements

On the web: