D & E Metalworks
Eda – call her “Edie” – Benttinen hasn’t ever been afraid of getting dirty. For years, the skilled metalworker and welder has worked on trucks, boats, dam projects, and at paper mills. And now, through her company D&E Metalworks in Mercer, she’s translated her lifelong “dirty work” into art – metal sculptures, garden decorations, furniture, chimes, and large installations exhibited and sold at shows or through private commissions. The company originated in Alaska in 1982 and started officially in Maine in 1997.
What were your most important needs in getting started?
We already had all of the equipment – welding gear, torches, grinders and tools – and a shop. The biggest thing was learning what fit was good – and what wasn’t – for our work. And then as the work evolved, different displays were needed to present it to the public.
What was there about your upbringing gave you the courage to venture out on your own?
Taking on your own business certainly requires something special. Where does one get that kind of courage, or willingness to step out into the unknown? For me, it had to be my dad. He was a pharmacist, and he was willing to move to different places, and something would always go wrong, but he would work at it until he fixed it. He was my original role model who found a way to make it work, to put it together, and if that wasn’t what he wanted, he was willing to step out again. You’ve got to be on your feet and adapt, and find a way to make what you have work for you. And then put a smile on your face.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of being a female entrepreneur?
At least 50 percent of the people in the craft artisan business are women. There are a lot of resilient, creative entrepreneurs out there, and what I find is that women are consensus builders. They work with each other; they want everyone to benefit, as opposed to the way men operate, which is, “If I win, you lose,” or, “If I lose, you win.” I think in general, it’s a disadvantage being a woman in trying to get a business going, because you’re often up against a structure that’s white male bankers. You need to have a really good business plan, and you need to present in a way that the people you’re communicating with hear you.
What advice would you give an aspiring woman entrepreneur?
Do your research, do your homework, check into the competition, figure out how you’re going to price things, what your cash flow plan is, look to see if there’s a need for it, a niche. Because you don’t want to borrow a lot of money or invest a lot of time and then fall flat. Don’t be afraid of being successful, don’t be intimated of being in charge of making choices. Trust your ability to lead yourself, instead of being the underling, or the “yes” person.