Growing into a Family Business

February 28, 2024

The PLASTICS Industry Association (PLASTICS) has a long history of family company involvement and Kate Whitling of Schake Industries—manufacturer of aluminum silos and other custom storage solutions—is part of that heritage. “My dad started the company in 1997, so I’ve been around our industry my entire life,” she said. “I came on board full-time a few years ago and quickly learned I have a passion for project management and product development. It has been rewarding to see the business grow over the last couple of years and I’m proud to be a part of that.”

Kate’s title at Schake is Vice President, but she wears many hats in the course of a day, including project management, accounting, marketing and “everything in between,” as she puts it. “Working for a small business has its challenges,” Kate shared, “but it’s also great to gain the experience in all aspects of our company.”

Life lessons on the job

As is the case with many people in the plastics industry, Kate has made some fascinating discoveries. “I love seeing how products that we use in our daily lives are made and the processes behind them,” she said. “And one thing about my personal life that I feel has changed because of my career in plastics is the idea that even the smallest of concepts can make a huge impact on people’s lives. Whether that’s plastic products, technology, processing equipment, or simply support.” Kate added that she benefits from applying that “smallest of concepts” mentality to other aspects of life. “It can make a huge impact on not only yourself, but others around you,” she said.

In addition to a job she loves, Schake Industries has also given Kate an opportunity to participate in Future Leaders in Plastics (FLiP), PLASTICS’ development initiative for professionals under the age of 40. “FLiP provides a sense of community and surrounds you with likeminded people in the industry,” she said. “It has been a great way to develop not only our brand, but also as an individual in the plastics industry.’ In that regard, Kate is looking forward to participating in the 2024 FLiP Mentorship Program and being paired with a seasoned industry professional who can help her grow in her own professional life.

Opportunities to reach out

“In addition, FLiP has also provided me opportunities to showcase the plastic industry in our town by planning a community cleanup, developing both environmental and brand awareness,” Kate shared. FLiP’s Community Impact Task Group was instrumental in promoting local cleanups and produced a guide to planning such events.

Kate is quick to invite others of her generation to follow a path toward becoming a plastics industry professional. “Products and processes are continuously evolving, and new technologies are being brought to market each day. It’s exciting,” she said. “I also think that someone from my generation should consider a career in plastics to add a more generational perspective to the industry as a whole.”

As for our traditional question about a plastic item she couldn’t live without, Kate responded, “My coffee maker! It is my lifeline most days.”

Not all that surprising, coming from such a busy Vice President.

PLASTICS and the Future Leaders in Plastics (FLiP) Committee are devoted to supporting and encouraging the next generation of plastics leaders who will play a crucial role in the innovation, technology and future of the plastics industry. FLiP’s mission is to provide young professionals under the age of 40 the exposure, education and resources they need to build lifelong careers in plastics. Want to join? Want to get your employees involved?  Email: [email protected]