Sunhill seeks a new direction

10_sunhill_01Founder's son and his business partner plan to market more aggressively and add new features to the machinery

Elliot Sun and his business partner, Trainor Rembe, are working to bring Sunhill Machinery a fresh perspective in marketing and branding. The company, a designer and distributor of woodworking machinery and precision tooling, was founded by Sun's late father, Chen Sun, in 1979 in Seattle.

"With my father passing away unexpectedly in January of this year, he ended up leaving the business to me and my sister. I felt like it was my duty to carry on his legacy as Sunhill was his life's passion that he built over the last 30 years. I knew it wasn't something that we could just let go," says Sun.

Sun credits his father for boosting the company's success, as Chen was an engineer and helped design the SDM-15, a 15" open-end wide belt sander that basically put the company on the map for offering quality devices.

"But there were other aspects of the business that I felt were behind the times as far as the operations, branding and marketing were concerned. My father was really big on sending out flyers and paper copies of material. Trainor and I come from the generation where that is time-consuming and not cost-effective, and there are many other ways to contact people," says Sun.

Sun and Rembe grew up as friends in Seattle and have kept in touch. Neither has a particularly strong woodworking background, but both have business degrees. Rembe went to college in Pennsylvania for international business and marketing, and Sun went to the University of Washington in Seattle where he studied business economics and information technology.

Sun is the chairman of the company and Rembe is the president. They opened a new distribution center, moving from Seattle to Los Angeles in August and are now trying to get everything up and running. They also went to the AWFS Vegas fair in July to get new marketing ideas and to learn about their competitors and what other challenges they will face in the woodworking industry.

"We learned it will be a tough business. The economy is bad, and there are also a lot of competitors. We are up for the challenge - we have the 30 years and can build a new company on the old foundation."

John Ford, a craftsman from A Single Tree in Los Angeles, is the third partner in the business and has the title of head of product development. He is working on increasing the overall mass, efficiency, dust collection and safety features on some of the machinery. "Essentially, we're looking at bringing the overall quality of the machines to a more professional level as opposed to a more consumer level," says Ford.

Sunhill will continue to be a dealer for Oliver Machinery, according to Sun.

"Our connection with Oliver, all our domestic and Taiwanese manufacturers are very important to the future success of the new Sunhill."

Contact: Sunhill Machinery, 431 S. Raymond Ave., Suite 103, Alhambra, CA 91803. Tel: 800-929-4321. www.sunhillmachinery.com

This article originally appeared in the October 2009 issue.