ransportation has come a long way since 1886, when German mechanical engineer Karl Benz patented his gasoline-powered, four-stroke engine vehicle. His legacy, now widely known through the luxury brand Mercedes- Benz, was cemented due in part to his wife Bertha and their two sons, whose 180-km journey brought publicity to his work and begat improvements that would eventually lead to the production of some of the world’s finest vehicles. While her husband’s invention was indeed groundbreaking, Bertha’s ingenuity in recognizing the marketability and profitability of his product was pioneering in its own right. Centuries later, Cindy Bontrager was also able to improve upon an existing idea to achieve financial success and eventually turn a job loss into a business opportunity. In 2001, Ms. Bontrager was working for a company that manufactured custom vehicle seats when it unfortunately had to close its doors. Rather than dwell on that, she immediately sprung into action, gathering an experienced and knowledgeable team to start her own custom seating company. Within a short 19 days, operations were in place and Superior Seats Inc. ( www.superior-seats.com ) 155 PRO-FILES MAGAZINE Cindy Owner, President Superior Seats Inc. Elkhart, IN was born. In the more than 10 years since, she has built her business into an industry leader in the design and production of custom seats for recreational and commercial vehicles. Seats, which can include swivel features, heating pads, leveling arms, reclining mechanisms, and a plethora of other options, can be covered in vinyl, cloth or leather. In addition to the superior quality of the materials used, patrons value the competitive pricing and excellent customer service that comes standard with all purchases. Things weren’t always on the up and up, though. As can be said of many small-business owners, Ms. Bontrager hit a couple of rough patches over the years, but it was her ability to ride through these changes while having to downsize to only 12 employees that was truly indicative of her strength and leadership capabilities. She has since returned to a full team of 20, whose knowledge and expertise have helped earn her company a reputation for being fair, honest and dependable. Having experienced the ugly side of business from a few male competitors who doubted her ability to create high-quality products, Ms. Bontrager is proud to say that her seats are widely regarded as a cut above the rest. Looking ahead toward the next few years, she intends to continue doing what she loves while steadily growing the business.