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Pictured is a GRIP-TEX Snow Sock, a portable device that can be attached by the driver and provides extra traction in slippery situations. 

By Maria Surma Manka | Photography by John Linn

Not many manufacturing entrepreneurs start their careers in the fashion industry, but that’s the journey of Diana Mini, president of Shark Industries. When her career in the Los Angeles fashion design industry stalled, she took the opportunity to start a business, Brake Drum Tool Company, with her father, manufacturing products for the automotive aftermarket industry. With no prior knowledge of the sector, she learned it from the ground up
and eventually founded her own company, Shark Industries.

“We make 40 percent of everything we sell right here,” said Mini of her company’s facility in Rockford. Shark Industries’ 50,000 square-foot building was made possible in part through financial assistance from the Initiative Foundation, the city of Rockford and others. “It was simple to move here, and it allowed us to own the building,” said Mini. “It also helped us create jobs.” We asked Mini for the inside scoop on what keeps Shark Industries grinding along in its market.

  • Weathering Winter Consumers may recognize a Shark product called the Snow Sock, which gives cars better traction on snowy roads and can be attached by the driver. They’ve been a big hit at Yosemite National Park, which sells them to visitors, because—unlike snow chains—they don’t damage roads and are easy to use. The sock is available on Amazon.com and Autozone.com, and Shark hopes to sell the sock more broadly, starting with the western United States.

  • Abrasive Opportunities Shark Industries manufactures cut-off wheels, flap discs, surface conditioning discs and mini grinding discs, which are sold throughout the United States and Canada to automotive after-market distributors, including AutoZone, Matco Tools and NAPA Balkamp.

  • Smoothing Out the Edges Shark products help manufacturers and auto body repairers remove metal, shape it and cut it. Its best-sellers include cut-off wheels, surface conditioning discs and mini grinding discs.

  • Speedy Delivery When a large customer needed more than 500 packages designed, filled and shipped in just 90 days, Shark outperformed the other vendors when it came to speed and service–despite having five times more part numbers to manage. 

  • Happy Customers Shark Industries boasts many awards, and its success comes down to service. “There’s a big difference between a large business and a small one. Our customers are constantly amazed at the lengths we go to so they’re happy,” said Mini. 

  • Rubbing the Right Way To make a cut-off wheel that can cut through steel, several sizes of grain are mixed with powdered resins and liquid resins. That material is layered and sandwiched between two pieces of fiberglass on a 20-ton press. The wheel is then baked in an oven for 24 hours.

  • Digital Commerce When Amazon (yes, that Amazon) saw Shark’s products at a tradeshow, it convinced Mini to let it sell Shark products on Amazon.com. As a result, Shark does a “steady” line of business through the online retail giant.

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