Peter Asch knows one of the keys to building a strong business lies in working with the people who work for him.
“The context is that we’re deep believers in training and in truly helping people to better themselves,” said Asch, who is the CEO of Twincraft Skincare. “People have to want to help themselves, and if they do, the company is open to it and we’ll also fund it. It’s all about inspiring people and helping them to have a better life.”
Asch’s Winooski-based soap and skincare company is a family business that was founded in Canada by his father and uncle in 1972. Six years later they expanded into Vermont, and in the early 1990s the company completely relocated to the Green Mountain State, where it has remained since. Today, Asch and his brother Richard continue to run the contract-manufacturing business that produces over 40 million bars of specialty soap and millions of bottles and jars of liquid soaps and skincare products annually. And part of what’s kept the company going strong for nearly half a century is that Twincraft’s employees are well taken care of.
“It’s been part of our ethos. I think we’ve deepened it over the last few years, but it’s always been part of the company,” he said. “It’s all about ‘how do you inspire people? How do you help people have a better life?’’’
Walking through the manufacturing, lab, and packing areas of the plant, Asch stops to talk and joke with employees, with many of whom he’s on a first-name basis. At one point he stops to introduce himself to a new employee who’s been with the company for just over a week. When asked if he’s enjoying his work, the employee smiles and says he is. Asch thanks him for his work, shakes his hand, and watches as another large sack of soap pellets gets emptied into a massive hopper. Knowing his employees, Asch said, goes hand-in-hand with empowering his employees.
Asch went on to describe the deep commitment Twincraft has for staff development and training and how that’s a growing part of the focus of his company. For a brief period from 2007 to 2011, the Asches sold their business to a public company. But when the chance to buy back Twincraft came up, Peter and Richard saw an opportunity to ensure the company would remain in Vermont and a chance to further strengthen the workforce of the Winooski-based company.
“When Rich and I bought the company back, we quadrupled our training budget,” Asch said while sitting in his modest office at the manufacturing facility.
That increase has allowed Twincraft to broaden the offerings it can make for these types of programs. The result has been a growing relationship with CCV in which the College provides training and educational opportunities to Twincraft employees.
“Our workforce team spent some time with key leadership at Twincraft to learn about the company, their workforce challenges, and their future goals and plans,” said Penne Lynch, executive director of CCV’s workforce education programs. “Twincraft had identified the need to grow leadership skills across their organization, and with that in mind we decided an on-site Principles of Supervision course would be a good approach.”
According to Asch, CCV’s workforce education team brought the course to Twincraft’s Winooski facility and about a dozen middle managers participated in the program. The curriculum included material he refers to as “the pillars of management,” i.e. effective communication, goal setting, delegation, how to hire people, and then how to inspire those people.
“The response was awesome,” Asch said. “Anytime people are helped to better themselves in life, that’s a big deal; that touches people’s hearts.”
For Twincraft, the ability to host the course onsite also helped to make the course a company-wide success.
“It was great that people didn’t need to schlep over to CCV; they could just do the course right here,” he said. “And it allowed us to get both shifts, too. You know, one’s ending, one’s beginning, we held the course right in the middle.”
As of now, there are plans to offer more training at the company. Both Asch and Lynch echoed the sentiment that it’s not a question of whether CCV and Twincraft partner for another course, rather how and when it will happen.
“Our current work with Twincraft includes a collaboration between CCV, Vermont Adult Learning and Working Bridges to teach English language skills focused on those that are needed in a manufacturing facility,” Lynch said. “The program is offered to temporary and permanent employees and focuses on teaching English, workplace safety and cultural diversity in the workplace. Our hope is to offer the Certified Production Technician training program, once employees have the skills needed to be successful in the training.”
At this point, Asch says the company is in a period of strong growth having recently opened a second liquid skincare facility in Essex.
“We are manufacturing skincare products including sun protection SPF’s, oils, creams, and body butters–– all truly excellent products,” Asch said. “Last year we hired 35 additional full-time people. We are growing and progressing into the future.”
That, he says, has made everybody at Twincraft feel good about the work they’re doing. But, he says, the company won’t be resting on its laurels when it comes to training employees and helping them better themselves both in their work and in life.
“We’re serious about it,” Asch said, “and you know anything our employees learn here they can take home and have better relations with anybody they interact with because they’re learning skills they can apply anywhere in life.”