By Chris Bosak
The News-Times, Danbury, Conn.
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Beverlee Fatse Dacey shares her experience of taking over the family manufacturing business. She said that her dad had some misgivings about turning the company over to his daughter. She says, “He felt manufacturing was not a women’s profession. He said he wished I was a boy because I’d be perfect for it. I told myself: ‘Oh, you’re going to eat those words,'” she said. “But he didn’t have a succession plan. He thought he was going to live forever.”
The News-Times, Danbury, Conn.
Beverlee Fatse Dacey is proud of who she is and where she came from.
A banner-waving baby boomer and granddaughter to two immigrant entrepreneurs, Dacey is president of Amodex, a Bridgeport manufacturing company founded by her parents, A. Peter and Sylvia Fatse, in 1958.
The company makes an ink and stain remover product and includes six people: Dacey, her husband and their four children — two sets of twins.
“History will say the baby boomer generation was amazing. History will say we are the last generation that grew up with a lot of creative sparkle,” she said from a small conference room in Amodex’s building on State Street.
“That’s a skill that has served us well. We definitely don’t just coast. We become significant players.
“I see myself as part of a bigger whole with my peers,” she added.
She backs up that claim by volunteering as a board member of the Connecticut Manufacturing Innovation Fund and the New Haven Manufacturers Association. With the CMIF, Dacey takes pride in representing small manufacturers throughout the state.
“It’s not about me, but what I can do to make things better for others,” she said. “It’s exciting to be on this board and be the voice for the little business. It’s challenging and rewarding.”
Dacey is not shy about being the voice for anything she believes in. Though small in stature, she once stood up to a Romanian policeman when she was overseas on a Fulbright scholarship. Romania was a Communist country at the time.
“He was just trying to intimidate me and I knew it. It’s a moment I’ll never forget,” she said. “I didn’t know about freedom until I went to a place that didn’t have it. Now, to me, it’s not a concept, it’s a feeling. It’s taken for granted here.”
Her son Peter chuckles to himself when he hears his mother calmly assert herself as the company president when a supplier calls and insists on talking to someone in charge.
“I know what’s going on when I hear her say: ‘You’re talking to her,'” Peter said. “I just shake my head.”
A woman in manufacturing
Having people question whether she should be in manufacturing because of her gender started long before the phone calls to Amodex — and the original source was much more significant.
Although she had a knack for the business, her father expected one of his two sons to take over Amodex.
“He felt manufacturing was not a women’s profession. He said he wished I was a boy because I’d be perfect for it. I told myself: ‘Oh, you’re going to eat those words,'” she said. “But he didn’t have a succession plan. He thought he was going to live forever.”
Her mother, on the other hand, was less traditional and encouraged Dacey to do whatever she wanted.
Not that Dacey set out to become president of a small manufacturing firm. After graduating from Wheaton College, earning a master’s degree from the University of Chicago and taking her trip to Romania, Dacey worked as an academic administrator at colleges such as Tufts and Mount Holyoke. She continues to have a passion for learning and educating others.
She and her husband Gowan lived in Boston when they had their children. Wanting her twins to grow up around family, the Daceys moved back to Fairfield County and settled in Easton, where Beverlee’s parents lived.
‘Into a maelstrom’
Her father’s cancer diagnosis in early 2005 put the future of the business in question as the family dealt with the inevitable loss of its patriarch. He considered selling the business and worried how his wife would be cared for.
Then, as the family grappled with those emotions, the unthinkable happened.
“In April, mom was killed by drunk driver in Southport,” Dacey said. “Life went into a maelstrom, to say the least. We had to shift and think of how we would take care of my father. He was beyond grief-stricken.”
Beverlee Dacey, too, was in shock as she tried to cope with the death of her mother and take seriously the prospect of taking over the family business.
“I lost my cheerleader. I had someone to guide me and help me through my challenges. I have to do that alone now,” she said. “I was her only daughter and we were super close.”
In her typical fashion, though, she looked for the positives in the situation.
“I found a depth of courage and faith I didn’t know I had. I use it every day so maybe that’s something I had to have. It took a long time,” she said. “I developed a much different attitude toward others in regards to sympathy and empathy. You never know what’s going on in people’s lives.
“Everyone has hardship,” she added. “It’s not an exclusive club.”
Dacey realized she did not have a lot of time to think about taking over Amodex. There was much to consider in terms of lifestyle, finances and legacy. She had two children in college and two in private school. She called a family meeting.
“We had to be all-in as a family,” she said. “We all agreed, so I took over.”
In the process of taking over, she won over an important supporter. “Before he died, my dad said: ‘You’re going to make it,'” Dacey said.
Amodex had $67,000 in sales the first year Dacey took over.
“I had to hold my nose and hope we didn’t belly flop,” she said. “We had to get through the recession and we had to grow.”
New contracts with stores such as Lowes along with exports to countries around the world now has Amodex pushing $1 million in annual sales.
Amodex was named the Connecticut Family-Owned Business of the Year by the U.S. Small Business Administration for 2017.
The growth and accolades may be partially credited to the timeless nature of the product and the strong foundation built by Dacey’s parents, but it’s also about the company’s president.
“She’s a dynamo,” her son Peter said. “She’s dynamic in everything she does. She has endless energy. She pursues things and that’s what you need as an entrepreneur.”
True to history; true to Bridgeport
Dacey feels a strong connection to her ancestors, who come from the Balkan Mountains area. One of her grandfathers opened a shoe shine business and the other opened a barber shop upon coming to the U.S.
Her father, who dropped out of high school at age 17 to serve in World War II, worked for an office supply company before founding the company that would eventually be called Amodex.
“There’s something about that entrepreneurial spirit,” she said. “It’s in our DNA.”
When Dacey purchased the old police precinct building on State Street a year and half ago and moved the business there, she brought with her all the old photographs of her ancestors and the various jobs they had. One photo shows a group of men taking a break from their factory job in Rhode Island. Many of the men did not have shoes on their feet.
“It’s not something you’d see today, but talk about guts,” she said.
The photographs are framed and hung in the conference room.
“They remind us as we sit in our nice heated office that we wouldn’t be here if they didn’t do what they did,” she said. “I’m very proud of the company’s history.”
If not for those photos, Amodex may have left Bridgeport — Dacey’s birthplace and the city in which her father founded the company — for a less expensive business climate, Dacey said.
“If we all bail (on Bridgeport), how is it ever going to come back?” she said. “I’ve always felt a connection to Bridgeport and we decided to be committed to it. Business is not all about making money. It’s what you do with it.”