A U.S. Air Force Academy graduate, Sara Kinney always dreamed of flying F-16s. Kinney was working her way up to that, piloting the T-6 and T-38 aircraft in the Air Force, when a head injury grounded her dreams. Being the single mother of a young boy, she reflected on her life’s path while riding city buses to daycare and jobs in Colorado Springs because her injury prevented her from driving.
Ultimately, she used her skills, education and lively, Type-A personality to launch Rim Technologies. She calls Rim Tech “a kitchen-table company,” because that is literally where it started in 2010. Now with 61 employees, an increase from 40 in February, she says she’s growing at “stealth rate. Our start-up growth is like being duct-taped to a rocket.” Kinney, 36, spent some time with the Business Journal discussing her company and work ethic.
What does your business do?
Primarily we provide health care information solutions in a virtual work-from-home web environment. On the aerospace and defense side, we are a qualified service-disabled, veteran-owned, economically disadvantaged woman-owned, small-disadvantaged business providing engineering and technical services under subcontract to large defense prime contractors. Our staffing services help local people find jobs. We are a “not-only-for-profit” company — we look at more than just the bottom line when we decide which jobs to pursue and how to do business.
Talk about your firm’s flex-time policy and why you enacted it.
A traditional schedule didn’t work for me as a mom or a person with a disability. As Rim Tech grew, I wanted everyone in the company to be held to the same standard, so we just kept going with the “flex” policies. I work well over 40 hours and am able to schedule work around important personal events.
The primary benefit is to attract and retain top talent. Rim Tech is able to reach untapped individuals with a “broken wing” or “brand new wing” and bring them into the labor force by providing a flexible custom benefit package and employment contract. Creative, capable people often are multidimensional and have important family obligations and educational goals. Each worker at Rim Tech sets their own schedule. I require people to work at least 10 hours a week. Most of our employees work 30 hours a week from home. You can be right there for your children, which is awesome, and you’re getting the same pay as you would if you came in to work. Providing flexibility is one way Rim Tech is pushing norms, creating opportunity and a diverse workforce.
Why don’t you have a website?
We decided to reduce our cyber risk and focus on work close to home. Rim Tech is happy to stay local and grow our business here. We are exceeding our sales goals, quarter after quarter. All small aerospace defense businesses are aware that cyber security and information protection are critical to their business success and our national security.
What do you think of the business climate in Colorado Springs?
Colorado Springs is start-up friendly. I’ve received tremendous support from organizations like the Procurement Technical Assistance Center and the Small Business Administration websites. Most resources are free, and it’s a great place to start putting pen to paper on a business plan. There are a number of local women’s networking groups including Women in Defense and the Southern Colorado Women’s Chamber. Meet-ups at these groups helped me overcome many of my early start-up stumbling blocks.
What advice would you give others starting a business?
Be yourself. Write out clear goals for your business. It’s OK to change course as you learn and if things aren’t working. Failure is part of the process; learn what you can and move on. Lots of people will tell you how you ought to run the business and question your decisions, but in those uncertain moments, measure your success by your own standards.
When you’re stuck, it’s OK to pause and ask yourself, “What good can you do?”