David MacNeil sells car mats. Made in America, high-quality car mats. And he’s made a lot of money by doing so.
The 55-year-old business owner has been running his Chicago-based mat company, WeatherTech, for more than two decades. His idea for the company came in 1988 when he was working as the vice president of U.S. sales for the automotive company AMG and noticed how poor the quality of the mats were, even though they were serving luxury vehicles. MacNeil took a gamble and a $50,000 second mortgage to import expensive mats from the United Kingdom.
Within a few years WeatherTech was manufacturing its own mats (which cost consumers an average of $150 each), digitally measuring each vehicle for custom made mats that trap water, road salt, mud, and sand – and more importantly, stay in place to keep the floor clean. To make the mats even more attractive, their thermoplastic material holds up to harsh Midwestern winters and the stifling heat of the summer.
Today, WeatherTech is bringing in $400 million a year in sales, and last year’s profit was upward of $100 million. It has recently expanded by working with German and Korean carmakers for their private-label business, which now accounts for 30% of the company’s overall sales.
MacNeil attributes his success to producing a product that is high quality and home grown. But that success also comes from workers who are treated well. MacNeil pays more than the average employer in the industry – $20 for jobs that typically cap out at $16.
Advertising works, too. MacNeil spent $4 million for a 2014 Super Bowl ad depicting an entrepreneur who defies the odds by running a company solely based in America – and succeeding. It was a shout-out to all his naysayers who didn’t think he could do it, who didn’t think an American-only company could profit.
“It was an evolutionary step and an investment in our future in branding the WeatherTech name and getting it out to all of America,” says MacNeil. “And it helped us get across a message that is near and dear to me: the importance of U.S. manufacturing, our industrial infrastructure, using American raw materials and hiring American workers.”