When IAC Acoustics went out of business in late 2015, Juan Breucop and Mike Rodriguez found themselves out of a job.
The two men, with nearly 50 years of sales experience between them at IAC and its predecessor company GT Exhaust, could have gone their separate ways and found other jobs.
But they continued to hear from former customers and they saw a need for the products that they had been selling.
So they pooled $3,500 of their own money and incorporated a new company, Innovative Exhaust Solutions Inc., in March 2016.
It hasn't been easy — in fact, the pair said they struggled to find financing in the beginning — but two years later their company has grown to 20 employees and more than $1 million in sales.
They credited the help of Frontier Bank, which loaned money to them when no one else would, and Invest Nebraska, which provided an equity investment.
"Without them none of this would have happened," Rodriguez said.
Breucop said the company is in line to get three large contracts this year, and if that happens it could add at least 10 more employees and a second production shift.
Currently, 18 of Innovative Exhaust's 20 employees are former IAC/GT Exhaust employees, and Breucop said he hopes to be able to add more.
The company also recently signed a lease with the Lincoln Airport Authority to expand from 14,000 square feet of space to 24,000 in a building in the LNK Enterprise Park.
"It's been going super fast, and so basically we were at the point where we had to expand," Breucop said.
So how has the company been so successful? Breucop and Rodriguez said lot of it comes from the relationships they had built and the credibility that came with that.
Even though the GT Exhaust name lives on under a new owner, customers are willing to work with Innovative Exhaust Solutions largely because they know Breucop and Rodriguez are former GT Exhaust employees.
Breucop said about 80 percent of the company's business is from former customers of GT Exhaust, with the other 20 percent coming from new customers.
Most of its customer base is in the U.S., but it also has customers in other countries, including Canada, Chile, China and Mexico.
Innovative Exhaust Solutions makes the same kinds of industrial silencers that GT Exhaust made. Its main product is silencers for large generators, but it also makes silencers for engines on tugboats and Navy ships.
"The target is to be a carbon copy of GT Exhaust," Breucop said. "That's what we know. That's what the customer knows."
However, the company is always willing to take on other custom projects, including one-off specialty products.
"When everybody says no, we say yes," Rodriguez said.