Sherwood’s Galley Support Innovations will soon need a new trophy case at the rate the company has recently racked up awards.
The aviation support company currently has around 50 employees at its home base in Sherwood, with another office in Washington state. The organization is headed by Chief Executive Officer Gina Radke, with her husband, Wade, serving as Chief Operating Officer.
Earlier this year, Gina Radke received the STEP Ahead for Women in Manufacturing from the Manufacturing Institute, and more recently, the Small Business Administration office in Little Rock presented Radke with an award as the state’s exporter of the year.
The STEP Ahead award came as a surprise.
“I was nominated by one of my peers in the industry,” Radke says. “I was honestly shocked and honored that the Manufacturing Institute would select me. Later, I learned that they had over 1,300 nominations from around the world. The list of women who have won this award is very prestigious and filled with some incredible women.”
The SBA honor was less of a surprise, as Galley Support was previously honored as the state’s small business of the year in 2016.
Not bad for Radke, who didn’t envision making aircraft interior hardware growing up in Little Rock.
“I wouldn’t say that realized that I wanted to go into manufacturing” Radke says. “My grandfather was an executive for an international paper company and I remember him telling me about the manufacturing business and quality control as a child. … I just grew up knowing about manufacturing and business so when the business opportunity that presented itself happened to be a manufacturing company, it was a believable transition for me.”
That transition was eased with Wade by Gina’s side, who originally started doing marketing and sales.
“Wade was running production, but by 2007 as the nation’s economy began to tumble, he took a job as a contractor at Hawker Beechcraft,” she says. “I took over running Galley Support Innovations, which produces latches, door-bolting systems, hinges and other items of interior hardware for aircraft and yachts.”
And despite having her grandfather’s business advice ringing in her head, Gina Radke then embarked on learned as much as she could.
“I began taking every course or class I could find on how to run a small business,” she says, “The [SBA] became a great resource. It turns out I had a natural ability for process development and quality assurance. Eventually, GSI landed a large contract with a major aircraft manufacturer for all their interior hardware. In 2009, Wade returned to GSI full time as the COO and I took on the role of CEO so we could keep growing the now flourishing business.”
Of course, working with your spouse is not for the faint-hearted.
“Wade and I are both Type A, ‘get it done’ type of people,” Gina Radke says of their work relationship “So when our ideas clash, they clash hard. We have been described as ‘fierce’ in our discussions. The key to our successful transition to our working relationship today is over-communicating and lots of humor! If you ask us separately we will tell you that the key is ‘having the other person do what I say and everything works out fine.’”
As time has rolled on, Radke’s day-to-day role at Galley Support has changed.
“I now spend more time in meetings than in actual manufacturing,” she says. “Now days it consists of me working with outside organizations to improve the overall aerospace industry and overall workforce development of Arkansas. Which of course benefits my company. I spend time with my team discussing strategic planning and innovations to better serve our customers and employees.”
She still mixes it up with the machinery though.
“At least once a year, I spend a week or two working on the production floor, hands-on in one of our many production departments,” she says, “Ten years ago, I ran machines daily until we grew to the point where we could hire the best in the business to run our production.”
Radke adds that manufacturing has a larger net benefit than most realize.
“People would be surprised to know that for every one job created in manufacturing, four other jobs are created in auxiliary industries such as hospitality, retail and service,” she says.
“Manufacturing is a wide-open industry for women. It offers great opportunity in a high-tech advancing field. My motto for women in manufacturing is ‘We are Few, But We Are Strong.’ I hope to one day be able to say, ‘We are Many and We Make a Difference.’”