Many years ago, Tina Baughman would travel throughout Monroe County, sitting in the passenger seat with pen in hand, while her husband, Steve, took the wheel. As he nimbly navigated street after street, she estimated the cost to seal each driveway, writing down the price on a piece of paper and affixing it to each homeowner’s mailbox.
That is, until representatives of the U.S. Postal Service traveled to the northwest corner of Monroe County to visit Magic Seal LLC headquarters.
“Eventually, other people caught on and started doing the same thing we did,” recalls Baughman, president of the Hilton-based company. When the post office realized what was happening, they weren’t too happy about it. One day, they knocked on our door and brought about 200 of them back to us.”
After some friendly counseling from post office officials, Baughman soon was equipped with her own bulk mailing code and a real-life example of living and learning.
“To be honest, it’s easier to mail them than to hand them out by car,” she says, with a laugh.
Traversing Monroe County proved to be time well spent.
“Over the years, we collected 120,000 residential addresses that are in our database right now,” she says. “We handpicked those. We have actually seen all of those driveways ourselves.”
The tedious work done in the formative years of the company continues to pay dividends. Through hard work and persistence, Magic Seal has become a dominant player in the industry. Sales have increased from $15,000 annually in its infancy to more than $4 million last year.
The company was No. 18 on the Rochester Business Journal’s most recent list of woman-owned businesses, ranked by the number of employees.
Magic Seal sealcoats an astounding 12,000 residential driveways annually and paves an additional 700 driveways each year. The business is expanding its commercial and residential paving division and does crack-filling work for local counties.
Learning from the ground up
As a child, Baughman never envisioned working for somebody else. Her father and mother both ran their own businesses, and she has always possessed an entrepreneurial spirit. So did her then-boyfriend, Steve, who operated a sealcoating business in Buffalo.
Baughman remembers sitting on her mother’s patio as a college student, answering phone calls for the business. No matter where she was, she made certain a phone was available to support the enterprise of the man she eventually would marry and work alongside full time.
“I was living in Niagara Falls, where I was raised, so I had his Rochester phone number forwarded to me there,” she says. “He already had a sealcoating business in Buffalo, but he and his brother, Dan, were interested in expanding. They were running one truck out to Rochester because the market was a little bit better. He asked me if I wanted to help.”
At the same time, Baughman and her brother, Anthony, were involved in a different kind of business venture.
“I come from a big Italian family, and we met this guy my dad knew and he wanted out of his business, and he gave it to us for a steal,” she says, recalling her days operating Ferraro’s restaurant in her native Niagara Falls.
“Fourteen tables and we used to get a great lunch crowd,” says Baughman, 46. “I had to do all of the ordering, hire and fire and keep the books. My brother cooked and my mom and dad would come in to help, too. I loved it, but my brother hated it. He was a great, great chef, but he likes to cook for one or two people, not that many.”
The experience of managing Ferraro’s restaurant, coupled with her work on behalf of the sealcoating company, provided Baughman with invaluable experience in the business world that she still relies on today. Intent on seeing how far they could go together, she and Steve moved to Rochester in 1993 to devote all of their time to the sealcoating venture.
Secret to sealcoating success
When asked for the secret to her success, Baughman quickly supplies several answers.
One reason, she says, is Magic Seal “uses a good product and we buy in such large volume that we are able to get a great price” and pass on savings to customers.
Another is that her business has garnered a reputation for top-notch customer service. She notes Magic Seal has been recognized with the Angie’s List Super Service award for six consecutive years. That is thanks to good feedback from those who have called upon the company for service. In addition, more than 80 percent of the company’s sales are derived from repeat customers.
“One thing that has kept us going a long time is our customer service,” Baughman says. “We’re blessed to have a great team. If it weren’t for them, we would not be where we are today. If we have an issue, we take care of it right away. If a complaint … gets all the way to me, someone’s head is rolling. I don’t tolerate that and my husband doesn’t either. That’s the one thing we have always done—try our best to make people happy.
“If someone calls and says, ‘We just had our driveway sealed and the cone blew away,’ we don’t tell them to move their garbage can to the end of the driveway,” she says. “I call one of the trucks and ask them to take a new cone. You can only control your own reputation with the way you do things.”
A third reason Magic Seal has been successful is because of her ability to promote the business as being woman-owned. Baughman completed a rigorous six-year process to receive her WBE Certification, a designation that lets others know that a woman has a majority ownership and control of a business entity.
The designation was not easily earned, but it has proven valuable.
“The paperwork and process was so tough,” Baughman says. “It was really intense. You have to answer so many questions. They want to make sure you know every in-and-out of that business. They wanted to make sure I knew every single piece of equipment, could explain everything about insurance and bids, you name it. And I can.
“I know every piece of equipment and what it does. As part of the process, they investigate you. They go through your tax returns. All eyes are on you when you do this.”
Liz LaParr, who has worked with Baughman for five years, describes her boss as “very knowledgeable about her business.” At the same time, Baughman is able to remain warm, funny and personable.
“She’s a phenomenal boss,” LaParr says. “She’s one of those people where you want to work hard for her because she will do anything for us.”
Looking to the future
Earning the WBE certification has opened the door to many new clients, and that has helped Magic Seal grow at a rapid rate.
“To be honest with you, we used to be seasonal, and in the winter we never really had to do much,” Baughman says. “Now, because we are paving and we have grown so much— and hopefully that will continue—I am working all year round now. Our days are not what they used to be.”
As one might expect, overseeing a company leaves little time for personal hobbies. As the mother of two sons, Anthony, 12, and Stephen, 17, Baughman pays special attention to make sure she remains focused on her children.
“They are the reason I’ve always worked from home,” she says. “At one point, we had seven people working with me at our house. The whole basement was a huge office. I’d have help come to the house to be with them, but I’ve always been there to keep a close eye on them.”
Cody Wiggins met Baughman when he was a student fulfilling co-op requirements and pursuing a degree in civil engineering at Rochester Institute of Technology. Five years later, he continues to work for the company.
“Tina is a great lady,” Wiggins says. “She is smart, ambitious and caring. She treats all of her employees like family. She has a good outlook, is very optimistic and is always looking forward to the future.”
Baughman is looking forward to growing her business—which had nearly 40 employees at its peak operation this past year—and perhaps passing it onto a future generation.
“I really enjoy that feeling of helping the company grow every year and trying to do better, working for yourself and having a goal,” Baughman says. “I’m working not just for myself, but for my kids, my husband, my brother-in-law and his kids. That’s a great feeling.”
Travis Anderson is a Rochester-based freelance writer.
Title: President, Magic Seal LLC
Education: AAS, preschool education, Niagara County Community College, 1992
Family: Husband, Steve, who works with her at Magic Seal; two sons, Anthony, 12, and Stephen, 17
Prior job experience: Managed an Italian restaurant in Niagara Falls
Quote: “You can only control your own reputation with the way you do things.”