Muthana a pioneer in her own right
At 11 years old, while other girls were playing with Barbie dolls, Aneesa Muthana was working on her parents' shop floor.
There, she was cleaning and filing, while her brothers were working on centerless grinders. The one thing she wanted to do more than anything was to join them.
"Everyone was like, 'You're a girl, nope, nope,'" said Muthana, today the president and co-owner of Pioneer Service Inc. in Addison. "At 13 my father gave me the opportunity, and as soon as I hopped on the machines, I was doing two or three people's jobs."
From those humble beginnings, Muthana has turned Pioneer Service into a precision-machined parts powerhouse, serving a wide variety of industries, like aerospace, medical, electric vehicles, hydraulics, motion control, oil and gas, and sporting goods. Pioneer Service's parts are part of assemblies created by other companies and sold to the original equipment manufacturer.
Though the contract manufacturer of Swiss CNC machined parts has many nondisclosure agreements in place, Muthana is proud of the end-use products where its parts end up.
"A lot of our parts have treated cancer patients," she said. "We make parts for electric helicopters, electric trucks, elevators," she said. "The list goes on. Tesla cars. NASA buys parts from us."
Her parents opened a shop in Elk Grove Village in 1981, when Muthana was 11. By 1990, her uncle had left the business and opened Pioneer Service with several partners. A few years later, in 1993, he bought out his partners and made a go of it himself. But his first love was machining, not business, and he was struggling.
Enter Muthana, who saved the day by encouraging her uncle to become a silent partner in the business, recalling that she told him, "if we fail, we fail together, and if we win, we win together."
From there it was a matter of executing the same hard work and persistence that she showed when she was an 11-year-old back in her parents' shop. The result of those efforts included bringing in the company's top three customers.
Over the years Muthana has evolved Pioneer Service into a company that has a fervent belief in diversity, equity and inclusion. That's out front on the company website, where it states, "Aneesa believes the future of manufacturing hinges on outreach to tomorrow's professionals while dissolving the old adversarial mindsets of 'women versus men' and 'millennials versus Boomers.'"
Today, the company boasts 34 employees, 22 of whom work on the shop floor, and it's the model of diversity. But don't take Muthana's word for it.
"When it comes to diversity, we have in our shop different ages, starting from the youngest to the people who are ready to retire," said company controller Alma Muka, who has been with Pioneer Service since 2014. "From the 20s to the 60s, we encourage college people to join manufacturing, and Aneesa is a big voice in that. The workforce here is almost the same number of men as ladies."
So what does the future look like for Pioneer Service? If there is one word that encapsulates that, it's "more."
"More innovation, more machines, more people and I would just say, we want to be on the front lines of technology," Muthana said. "In the 1990s we were fat, dumb and happy, and we weren't looking into that. Once we got a taste of that technology, there is no going back."
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