Margaret Mead once famously said, “Never doubt that a small group of committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Bevan Evans, NAWBO Cleveland member and president of Evans Industries in Canton, Ohio, and her team are no doubt a few of those citizens.
This second-generation woman entrepreneur runs a specialty manufacturing business that contracts with companies needing everything from ear seals for military canine hearing protection to gel-filled pads that go inside medical mattresses to help reduce pressure sores. If an engineer dreams it, Bevan and her team can likely make it a reality.
The business was founded by Bevan’s mom in the mid 1970s. Newly divorced with four kids, she needed a job and began working for a friend’s husband who owned a vacuum-forming business at the time. She was working as a salesperson when she secured a government contract for ear seals.
“She grew that side of the business until they decided it wasn’t their core competency,” shares Bevan. “He said ‘Take this equipment and do your own thing.’ She needed a loan to do that, and knew a banker who was surprisingly willing to give her one.”
Bevan’s mom, now 83, officially retired during the pandemic and Bevan is now the majority owner. Of her siblings, she was the only one interested in the family business. “I’m the oldest, so as a kid, I wanted to grow up and be just like my mom,” says this college theater major.
Bevan took accounting classes in high school to help with the business’ books. Then, when she came to work there full-time after graduate school, she started on the shop floor. “I try not to ask my employees to do anything I couldn’t do,” she shares.
Today, Bevan’s focus is on growth—and on helping others along the way. Her mom always viewed the business as a way to sustain a lifestyle. Now, it’s Bevan’s turn to see what she can do with it to position herself for the retirement she imagines.
Fortunately, Evans Industries stayed solid during the pandemic since they were considered an essential business. They shut down for two days to rearrange their space so that they could safely move forward together. They also successfully navigated supply chain and labor issues.
Years ago, Bevan’s mom began giving back to the community by hiring “second chance” individuals, including those who were coming out of the prison system or homeless. Bevan remembers one woman who had been in prison and lost custody of her child. The job was life-changing—she stayed with Evans Industries for 15 years and now runs a Christian mission helping others.
In addition to continuing this important work today, Bevan has a new passion. She is in the process of launching a program to provide six weeks of job training to foster youth who are aging out of the system. It’s inspired—and will be run—by one of her employees, Tony Barrino, who has worked for Evans Industries for 29 years. He has been a foster parent to teenage boys, and even adopted two.
“It’s always been a passion of his, so he said, ‘Why don’t we get the foster kids aging out of the system in here?’ They need jobs and need to be trained,” Bevan says.
Since Evans Industries has lower wage general labor positions, the plan is to coordinate with the city and foster care agencies to identify candidates to come to work and learn how to get to work on time, communicate, document absences, get along with co-workers, set up a bank account, budget and save and more.
In fact, they recently had a meeting with a state-run agency to explore where this program fits into the system. “We’re trying to see how we can help with the work requirement to bridge the gap between the agency and the real world for these individuals,” Bevan explains. “Also, once they leave us, they can hopefully step into a little bit higher-paying roles in other areas businesses.”
“We’re doing this as a way to give back to the community,” she adds. “The world as we all know it is a much more complicated place and we want to help the marginalized who aren’t being served. These kids don’t have a support system and if we can help them make a positive step in their lives, that’s what we want.”
Read more about this program, which is being piloted this fall, here.
Finding Her “Circle”
When Bevan took over the responsibility of running her family business, she knew she would need a strong support system in order to grow.
She joined NAWBO Cleveland toward the end of the pandemic and immediately joined the Circle program for Premier members with $1 million-plus businesses. She wanted to connect with and learn from women business owners with even larger businesses in the Circle’s Mastermind groups.
Soon after, Bevan was asked to be part of her chapter’s Advocacy Committee, which she is now chairing for the second year. Additionally, she is now part of NAWBO’s National Advocacy Committee. “My advocacy came from my mom having to go through the things that she did,” says this NAWBO Cleveland Rising Star Award recipient. “I wondered if there was a story I could tell to make a difference for myself or others.”
Bevan loves to travel as well, so she’s been to NAWBO National’s Leadership Academy, Advocacy Days and the National Women’s Business Conference (and is excited to go again in Austin this fall). She’s also excited to join NAWBO’s international delegation to Paris, France, this November!