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New hires turn into key ingredients for growth spurt at McClure's Pickles

For most of its eight years, McClure's Pickles couldn't keep up with the demand for its products.

The Detroit-based picklemaker was shipping its jars of pickles, chips, and bloody mary mix to upscale grocery stores both here in Metro Detroit and across the U.S. Buyers could even find them in a Whole Foods in Manhattan.

Then McClure's Pickles team decided to take a risk. It dramatically increased its production space, investing large amounts of capital in new equipment and a bigger employee base. It even took out a bank loan to finance it. And then for the first time it had more than enough production capability to keep up with demand, and some big debt obligations to meet with projected future growth.

"It was a risk," says Joe McClure, co-owner of McClure's Pickles. "The whole production-improvement costs went through the roof."

The gamble is based on the idea of scaling McClure's Pickles business so it becomes a household name in North America. To make that work the company needed more than what its original leadership team, essentially the McClure family, had to offer.

"This year we're going to have even bigger growth because we added some key people," McClure says.

McClure's Pickles hired an operations director to make sure production goals are met in a timely manner. It also hired a sales director with 20 years experience to bring in the revenue.

"He has grown other companies smaller than us to much bigger than us," McClure says.

So far the gamble is paying off. McClure's Pickles aims to exceed its annual revenue growth average of 30 percent. It is also clocking a net profit of 5 percent with a goal of hitting 8 percent this year and 20 percent by 2019. That seems possible for the multi-million-dollar firm with an eye on spiking its revenue.

"We expect it to grow even more this year," McClure says. "We're expecting about 45 percent growth."

McClure's Pickles has the ability to meet those goals. It has expanded its workspace at its facility on the Detroit/Hamtramck border. It has moved its warehousing to a nearby location which opens up another 4,000 square feet of production space.

"We're expanding to all production there and we're locating warehousing down the road," McClure says.

The company is also hiring. It has hired seven people over the last year, expanding its staff to 27 employees and a few summer inters. It expects to hire more as production increases and the company adds new products, like a bloody mary mix infused with the alcohol.

"We're going to give it a shot," McClure says. "It's not a surefire bet but we're going to give it a try."

Welcome to the Year of the Gazelle, an exploration of the fastest-growing startups in southeast Michigan by the Startup team and the New Economy Initiative for Southeast Michigan (NEI). Not only will we identify the local gazelle companies that are perfecting innovative new products, creating jobs, and generating lots of revenue, we will give you a full accounting of each one. The stories behind the entrepreneurs that build these businesses. The investors that back them. The resources they leverage. How they have all worked together to build Metro Detroit's new economy, and how they plan to do it in the future. In return we will only ask you to do one thing: keep up.

- Written by Jon Zemke

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