John Harwood moved to Victoria to follow his dream career of manufacturing composites, a dream that saw fruition when he started his own company in 1999.
Harwood Custom Composites (HCC) started out in a workshop on a farm, with Harwood working part-time while being employed by Viking Air.
“It got to the point where I was so busy I had to make the decision to go full-time or cut back on my orders,” said Harwood. “The company grew pretty fast from there.”
“We make composites at a really high level,” he said. “We create a mould and use a resin system with a fiber cloth that is glass, Kevlar, or carbon fiber. You can make whatever you want, and that’s the beauty of this that I really love.”
HCC primarily manufactures custom parts for the aerospace industry, and works with Viking, as well as a few companies that sell after-market components and ships products across Canada and the US. But Harwood looks for new opportunities to grow his business if the opportunity allows.
“Right now, we’re designing chassis for a three-wheel, one-seat, fully electric car that is being built in Vancouver,” he said. “We aren’t committed to working for just one industry.”
“The market dictates what’s available for work, and we invest the time finding new clients to make sure there is always something for us to do.”
Harwood says that growth is a goal of every business owner, and he is no different. Although he has already grown his company to employ 10 full-time employees, he has his sights on further expansion.
“I’ll hire anyone that has mechanical aptitude,” he said. “There aren’t any specific trades for aerospace mechanical design, but I like to help the colleges and engineering students with their projects. I’m happy to train someone that has zero experience in this industry.”
He also has some advice for people who are just starting up their own business too.
“You want to surround yourself with people who know what they’re doing so you can learn from them. They’ve already made the mistakes, so you don’t have to.”