Unique purchase: Local chemist buys chemical co.

Linda McGill Boasmond wanted to be a doctor. Instead, a chemist, she is making strides these days as the owner of Cedar Concepts Corp., the only Black, female-owned chemical manufacturer company in Chicago. Cedar Concepts, a privately-held industrial comp

“When you read the back of a product like hair grease and it says ‘active ingredients,’ that’s our contribution to the product,” she said. “Chemical manufacturing is a unique industry because we do not deal with the public directly. We deal with clients who in turn use our chemical formula to produce products sold to the public.”

As president of Cedar Concepts, she has the challenge of competing in an industry where few Blacks can be found. Her big break to buy into the company came in 1998 when the founder died, allowing her to then become a part owner. She had been the company’s operations manager after first beginning as a chemist for the company.

In 2004, the owner decided to sell his equity share in the company to Boasmond for an undisclosed amount, making her the sole owner. Bank of America financed the purchase after she made an equity investment of $500,000 that came from her savings. “Luckily I was a saver and had means to raise capital fast,” she said. “It didn’t hurt that a long time friend of mine was a vice president at the bank who helped push the loan through.”

Industrial analysts say chemical manufacturing companies, much like oil companies, are doing very well financially. “So many industries like real estate, automotive and publishing are suffering from weak sales this year. It’s encouraging to see some industries are still doing well despite the soft economy,” said John Parker, an industrial analyst with investment bank Bear Stearns.

“Consumers will always have a need for chemically mixed products like mouth wash and cleaning products.” In 2007, the company posted its highest annual sales of $13 million and Boasmond said she expects to exceed that amount this year. But the demand for chemical companies is in big. “All it would take is for one chemical company to discover the ingredients needed to take the strong odor out of bleach, and that company’s stock price and sales would skyrocket,” said Rudee Witherspoon, an industrial analyst with Salomon Smith Barney.

“And the only way that would ever happen is for companies like Cedar Concepts to continue coming up with new chemicals for pharmaceutical and other companies.” Boasmond will be looking to further diversify her 38-employee roster, which includes only seven Blacks. “I inherited my employees who had worked for the previous owner,” she said. “They do good work so there was no reason to replace them once I came on board.

I’m looking to hire another chemist right now and would love for that person to be Black, but unfortunately science is often not a career Blacks pursue.” In fact, a lot of Cedar Concepts employees are Hispanic but Boasmond said that’s partly because the company is located in the Back of the Yard neighborhood, a predominately Hispanic area. There are two Black people in management at Cedar Concepts and it is Boasmond’s goal to not only hire more Blacks but to have them in decision-making positions.

And because Boasmond started but never completed her MBA studies she said she is enrolling in the nextONE program at the Chicago Urban League to improve her own management skills. The nextONE program is a nine-month program designed to accelerate the growth of high-potential Black-owned firms.

“We will be sponsored by BP for the Urban League’s nextONE program, and I am very excited about learning new ways to help my company grow,” she added. Among the future plans she has for the company is to expand to a larger facility. Its current facility has two buildings and occupies two acres. “Ideally, I would like to relocate to a five-acre site, but finding that space in Chicago will be a challenge,” she said.

“We would like to remain in Chicago but are open to moving to the suburbs.” Boasmond, 50, is a Chicago native. She grew up on the South Side where she still lives and graduated from Medgar Evers Elementary and Lindbloom High School on the South Side. She later earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from DePaul University.

“And just think, I was in the process of starting a distribution company when the opportunity to buy Cedar came about,” she said. “But I guess God had a different plan for me because I know that through prayer all things are possible.” When she is not working, she speaks to kids about education and the vast opportunities in science for Blacks.

Wendell Hutson can be reached via email at whutson@chicagodefender.com

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