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Behind the List with Bonnie Haas of Kettle Creek Corporation

Inspiring other women to run businesses, too

Managing a business takes hard work, dedication and passion.

No one knows that more than operators of small businesses, the backbone of America’s economy who make up the majority of its workforce.

Women have become a big part of that backbone, running all kinds of businesses – from big to small.

Bonnie Haas of Kettle Creek Corp. in Ottsville is one of those women, and she’s here to answer this week’s “Behind the List” questions and talk about her business.

Lehigh Valley Business: How long has Kettle Creek Corp. been operating in the region and what are its primary services?

Bonnie Haas: Kettle Creek Corp. was started in 1983 as Windsor Barrel Works, a small-business manufacturer of recycling and waste bins and benches made from post-consumer recycled materials, high-density polyethylene and polyethylene terephthalate, and from aluminum and steel, for all indoor and outdoor residential and commercial spaces.

My husband, Philip Haas, started the business and then incorporated in 1992. I was first a vice president and did international sales, marketing and export work, and then became president and CEO in November 2012. I became a Certified Women Business Enterprise in 2016 and also became a certified recycling professional through Penn State University in the same year.

Not only do we manufacture our own proprietary products, but also advise and consult with our clients on how they can initiate and improve their collection programs.

Kettle Creek Corp. was started in Kempton, Berks County, and now is located in Ottsville, northern Bucks County. We have our shop in the Warminster area.

LVB: What have been some of the biggest challenges and opportunities that Kettle Creek Corp. has encountered throughout its years in business?

Haas: There have been interesting challenges, as we are a small business and a corporation. With any small business, there are the usual events such as overhead, employees and costs of supplies that always are in a state of flux, and the costs of health insurance and corporate taxes have placed constraints on us for capital investments and expansions that I would like to make sooner than later.

As a licensed Registered Nurse for 40 years next year, I was experienced in anticipating changes in my job, and I use that experience preparing for what can and may occur as the business operates and grows. I pay close attention to my budget and prioritize what is most important, advantageous and effective in operating Kettle Creek Corp.

LVB: What are some of the perks of being a woman-owned business?

Haas: … Yes, as I mentioned before, I am certified through WBEC [Women’s Business Enterprise Council] of Pennsylvania, Delaware and Southern New Jersey, the regional partner of the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council as being a Certified WBE.

This certification shows the professional business community that I have qualified, after a thorough investigation, of being in control of my company.

After working very hard at achieving certifications in management and leadership, and studying corporate heads that were successful, I felt that being a certified woman-owned business would add to my credentials as a president and CEO and also show my commitment to making Kettle Creek Corp. a success. Also, it could inspire other women I met to do the same.

In addition, the organization WBEC of Pennsylvania, Delaware and Southern New Jersey is extremely helpful in promoting business through announcements of potential businesses looking to make connections and working with woman-owned companies.

LVB: How does Kettle Creek Corp. directly stimulate the local economy? How does it get involved with the local community?

Haas: Kettle Creek Corp. utilizes as many local businesses as possible to assist with supplying, shipping and assisting with the manufacture of our Pennsylvania-made products. In that way, our small business contributes to providing jobs to Pennsylvanians and contributing to its economy and other small businesses.

I have become active in the Central Bucks Chamber of Commerce, where I participate on a few committees that are involved with community activities, and I’ve recently gotten back into volunteering: educating children about gardening and nature.

Years ago, I trained as a master gardener through Penn State Berks County Master Gardener program.

LVB: What does the future look like for Kettle Creek Corp.? Does it have plans for growth?

Haas: I am working on various projects right now, and they involve manufacturing other products that use post-consumer recycled plastics and metals.

Also, I am interested in working with other manufacturers to produce products using post-consumer, local recycled materials, which will promote more green, sustainable, closed-loop products that support the circular economy philosophy.

Brett Smith at the Small Business Development Center at Lehigh University has been invaluable in assisting me with various business issues I’ve had to deal with, and I encourage others to contact them if they need help.

Christopher Holland
Christopher Holland is a researcher for Lehigh Valley Business and blogs on arts and entertainment in the region.

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