Co-owners of FoeHawk Industries, Michael Memmott and Brent Tolman, have gained traction with their fledgling metalworking shop through construction and custom jobs.
Memmott and Tolman started building things together at a young age. “When we were 16 years old, Brent bought a welder and we started messing around,” says Memmott. “Brent got really good at welding.”
They made a go-kart and took on odd jobs, laying the foundation for the business to come. “Michael and I have been palling around forever, and we always thought that having a business together would be really cool,” says Tolman.
That led to the founding of FoeHawk Industries in 2017. “We decided that this was what we wanted to do, and we actually worked at it and made it into something,” says Tolman.
Starting with metal art, Tolman and Memmott invested in equipment and expanded the company’s capabilities. Railings are now the top output, and the company has made trailers, doors, firepits, signage, doors, and other custom products. “We pride ourselves on being able to do random, little jobs,” says Memmott. “Whatever crazy thing you have on your mind, we can do that. . . . If it’s made out of metal, we figure we can do it.”
One example: FoeHawk Industries built a custom trailer for a cabin-builder in Montana. “The idea was to drive the trailer to a work site, and then it holds your 2X4s or 2X6 on the proper centers,” says Memmott. “You can just build a wall really quick, and then slide the wall off the trailer and build the cabin. Custom stuff like that is what we enjoy, especially with engineering backgrounds. We’d like to do more jobs like that.”
FoeHawk Industries has a CNC mill, lathe, and plasma cutter, as well as welders and hand tools.
Memmott still has a day job as an engineer at Northrop Grumman, but Tolman took the leap and went full-time with FoeHawk Industries in early 2022.
“It really started to grow in the summer of 2020,” says Tolman. “I built myself a 16-foot enclosed trailer from the ground up, and that advertised without us having to advertise that we do lots of welding. People started coming in: ‘Can you do this?'”
With the trailer as a mobile calling card, FoeHawk Industries found a ready market making railings largely for local customers — “guardrails and handrails for new construction and existing homes,” says Tolman.
Adds Memmott: “We’re small and bare-bones right now, but we’re growing. We’re getting jobs coming in steadily. How do we advertise enough now so we’re staying completely busy?”
On the origin of the FoeHawk name, Memmott says he grew a mohawk waiting for his then-girlfriend, now-wife to return from an LDS mission. “She said you should grow a mohawk while I’m gone, so I did,” he laughs. “My nickname, she calls me ‘Hawk’ because I grew out a seven-inch mohawk.”
Challenges: Space — or lack thereof. The company operates out of a 400-square-foot garage, and the co-founders are looking to triple that at a company-owned shop. “Working in the garage is pretty tight,” says Tolman.
“I think a 1,200-square-foot shop would be amazing,” says Memmott.
Opportunities: While the current mix of railings and custom work is growing, Memmott and Tolman would like to get into the outdoor recreation market. “We’d like to design something and build it — a product we can sell and have more passive income,” says Tolman. One idea: a mobile camping kitchen to hold a stove, cookware, and other items.
Needs: Beyond a bigger shop, Tolman says he wants to invest in equipment upgrades. “A big bandsaw is definitely on my wish list,” he says. “It would just quicken up the workflow.”
Memmott says industrial cleaning tools for metal preparation is another need for FoeHawk Industries. “We’re very small and we really need to sit down and think, ‘How are we going to grow?'” he notes. “We’ve realized our skills have overcome our equipment. . . . We need to upgrade our equipment. We need to get better stuff to match our skills.”