Julia Grant was in her early 20s when a business associate suggested she start her own business.
Grant, an engineer who had become proficient in computer-aided-design software, began slowly. She accepted an independent gig that was expected to last roughly six months but paid more than she made in a year. And in case the new venture did not work out, she took a leave of absence from her job rather than simply resigning.
That safety net turned out to be unnecessary. Grant's business, Autodraft Inc., which does business as Adraft, is celebrating its 25th year.
A fourth-generation engineer, Grant had always been interested in math and science and how things worked. The business grew largely through word-of-mouth with her dedication to her customers.
"It amazes me how many companies don't know their customers or don't care," she says. "I want to know more about them than they do."
Founded in 1988, Fairport-based Adraft specializes in helping companies with their computer-aided design and engineering needs, keeping in mind both technical and business requirements and the future direction of these applications and technology.
The firm works mainly with manufacturers in the areas of mechanical design, electrical controls design, plant engineering and design, and product lifecycle management.
"We help manufacturing companies stay competitive in a global environment," Grant says.
Adraft also assists companies that design engineered products in sales automation and with technical marketing.
In addition to providing engineering management services, Adraft is a value-added reseller, trainer, designer/drafter, implementation house, consultant and technical supporter.
The business is qualified to train firms on computer programs from California-based Autodesk Inc., a multibillion-dollar software firm and leading supplier of 2-D and 3-D software, mainly to the building and manufacturing industries.
Adraft serves clients in Central and Western New York, as well as northern Pennsylvania. The engineering management firm also has some global and large corporate accounts, such as Eastman Kodak Co., Pactiv Corp. and SPX Corp.
Adraft employs 14 people. It is housed in a renovated 1885 schoolhouse on Baird Road and has additional locations in Buffalo and Rochester. The staff includes engineers, salespeople and administrators.
Grant, 48, is Adraft's CEO. Her co-founder and first partner left the business a few years ago, but her chief financial officer-who is also her mother, Carolyn Grant-now is a partner.
Grant says the firm has no long-term debt; sales are in the $5 million range.
Besides helping manufacturing operations to prosper and stay in this area, Grant also is committed to encouraging young people, especially girls, to pursue careers in fields such as manufacturing and engineering. She expects Adraft to continue growing, particularly in computer simulation and data management services.
Adraft also is working with customers on 3-D printing, also called additive manufacturing, which is gaining popularity in the industry.
"The industry is getting wild, almost revolutionary," Grant says.
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