Small Business
Scrap makes family success
May 12, 1998: 1:42 p.m. ET

Facing mountain of debt, woman turns $200 into promising business
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CHICAGO (CNNfn) - Today 8 million businesses in the United States are owned by women -- a 78 percent increase in the past decade.
     As more women decide to say goodbye to a steady paycheck and venture out on their own, they are joining a sorority of established entrepreneurs who have already built solid businesses.
     One such woman is Marsha Serlin. Twenty years ago, Serlin was a mother of two facing divorce and a mountain of debt.
     Her turnaround began when she gathered $200 and rented a truck to start United Scrap Metal. From its humble beginnings, the business has grown from a one-woman recycling operation to a booming business with revenues of almost $50 million.
     "I got into it because I needed money and that was the bottom line. I had two children to support and I didn't know a thing about it. I didn't inherit the business or have family in it. It just evolved," she said.
     United Scrap Metal purchases scrap metal from industrial clients and walk-up customers. If it's metal, they buy it -- including the kitchen sink.
     Marsha's son Brad may have disappointed Mom by not going to law school, but now he's making her proud managing the daily operations and helping her expand the business.
     "As buildings get torn down, things get renovated. It just keeps coming in faster and faster. Once we get the scrap, we really don't have problems selling it to numerous consumers: mills, foundries, etc.," he said.
     United Scrap recently bought another Chicago recycler and with the quickening pace of consolidation in the industry, more acquisitions may lie ahead.
     As long as the customers keep coming, Brad Serlin said the company will keep expanding. (100K WAV) or (100K AIFF)
     However, on the road to getting bigger and better, Marcia Serlin is not without worries. Those include making sure her employees are provided for.
     "There's fear that every morning when I wake up I've got to run and have to make sure it happens. And I have 150 people that have families that have to be fed. That's what's important to me," she said.Back to top
     -- by correspondent Ceci Rodgers


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