There are so many stories of how family businesses got their start, usually in the founders’ garages. This isn’t one of them. The story of Epoxytec — a leading trenchless rehabilitation solutions provider — begins when an immigrant from Italy came to the United States for a better life.
What started out as one young man’s dream has grown into a lifelong family passion.
Joseph Caputi and his wife immigrated from Italy to the United States during the 1960s, making their home in New York City. He spoke very little English but he didn’t let that stop him from carving out a piece of the American Dream and, in the end, a piece of today’s ever-growing trenchless rehab market.
“It’s really the American Dream when you think about it,” Epoxytec president and CEO Michael Caputi proudly says of his father. “This was an Italian immigrant who hardly spoke English, learned a trade, started his own company, drove the company with his entrepreneurial spirit and brought in family to help grow it.”
And grow it they did. Starting as a smaller regional company in south Florida, Epoxytec produced mechanical repair epoxies for rebuilding pumps and heavy equipment and later took that innovation, making it more relevant to concrete coatings. The pivot to the water and wastewater rehab markets came 10 years later and that focus helped to elevate Epoxytec to the success it enjoys today.
In 2021, the company remains a family affair. Joseph Caputi — now 80 — has taken a few steps back but Epoxytec remains a family-run business, with Michael Caputi joining it 2001 and later his wife, Silvia to handle marketing and administrative operations.
Epoxytec has grown into a widely respected and key player in the trenchless rehabilitation market, most notably with its ultra-high-build, structural epoxy lining solutions, and its flagship CPP Sprayliner Series, which originally started out as a trowel-applied epoxy. With its success in water and wastewater solutions, the company has also launched separate epoxy brands, including CLADLINER for manhole rehabilitation and lining systems and MCOR Products, an epoxy that concentrates on marine, oil and gas coatings; the latter was created as a tribute and nod to Joseph Caputi’s early career with industrial coatings.
The company is headquartered in Hollywood, Florida — nestled between Fort Lauderdale and Miami along the I-95 corridor — in a 15,000-sq ft building that houses its manufacturing facility and administrative offices. And location proved lucrative in the early days of Epoxytec.
“Corrosion never stops in south Florida because it’s a coastal community and has high humidity,” Caputi says. “There a shallow water table with a lot of saltwater coming through. Our products and growth did well being here in our early years.”
While its largest market is the East Coast, Epoxytec is making tremendous gains in markets across the United States, as well as outside the country’s borders. Over the last 15 years, the company has seen year-over-year, double-digit growth. Across the three product brands, the trenchless market makes up about 50 percent and represents 60 percent of the CPP Sprayliner Series.
Epoxytec’s leaders point to their customers and team when asked about the company’s place in the trenchless market — listening to the need and letting the team create the products to meet the need. And that’s what the future is all about for the Epoxytec team: listening to their customers.
“Our customers drive our innovations,” Caputi says. “The future for us is somewhat what we’ve always been doing, which is keeping our ears wide open and listening to their demands. “Taking advantage of our size in which we can be nimble, we can pivot quickly and be flexible. Just like the successes of our past, our future is a focused on growth but focused on growth the right way: listening to the industry, listening to our customers and putting them at the forefront of what we have to do next for the next five to 10 years.”
When Joseph Caputi landed in New York, he worked as a tradesman in a wood mill. Seeking a higher paying job, he answered a newspaper ad for a sales position at an epoxy company — a bold and brave choice considering he spoke little English.
After completing “boot-camp” training on the epoxy product, he was off to sell. What happened surprised the company and opened the door to an opportunity that brought the Caputis to south Florida. “He went out and after about a month and speaking very little English, he was the only one who came back with a sale,” Michael Caputi shares. “He was always humble and unassuming. He approached the power industry in New York and asked customers to teach him where to use the products he was selling rather than pretending that he could teach them.”
Impressed with his success, the company offered him an independent distributorship and he relocated to Hollywood, Florida, an area where Joseph Caputi had family. Throughout the 1980s, he introduced cold polymer repairs and coatings throughout Florida, as well as some Central and South American regions. By 1990, he decided to strike out on his own, founding Epoxytec.
At the time, Epoxytec had two significant clients: Florida Power and Light and Miami-Dade Water and Sewer (MDWS); it was with the latter that Epoxytec teamed with a chemist to develop an epoxy product line that MDWS could use for its inhouse maintenance program. You don’t want say the rest is history but it was pretty close. This collaboration launched Epoxytec into the water and wastewater markets, thereby redirecting the trajectory of Epoxytec’s fortunes.
“Our most popular product today was actually born from [MDWS] requesting a practical, easy-to-apply and dependable performance product for various emerging grade and lining rehabilitation [applications],” Caputi says.
When Michael joined his father in 2001, Epoxytec was already firmly established in the south Florida region, but the son had broader plans for the coatings company beyond Florida’s borders. “Of course, me being the young, hungry, ambitious entrepreneur, I wanted to break out of south Florida and diversify and grow our customer base,” he says.
And that’s what he did, and it was done by what he describes as “hyper-focusing” on the water and wastewater rehabilitation markets — and ultimately becoming a force in the trenchless rehabilitation market, developing more than 70 products for the critical and growing water and wastewater sector on national and international levels.
Epoxytec’s key product for water and wastewater projects is the CPP Sprayliner series, structural high-build, high-strength epoxy lining system with 1/8 to ¼ in. film thickness. This product line is a two component, moisture insensitive, highly adhesive, chemical resistant, 100 percent solids, high strength and reinforced epoxy. When cured, it creates reinforcement lining as a fiber-reinforced-polymer (FRP), with high strength and flexural properties for partially or fully deteriorated structures.
“This product is the one that evolved to respond to more and more toward trenchless situations and lends itself very well to sanitary sewers, collection systems and large diameter pipes,” Caputi says. “It’s a great alternative to traditional lining systems such as CIPP and sliplining, giving contractors another tool in their toolbox to respond to certain conditions that some of the other lining systems cannot.”
The expansion into trenchless came after trenchless contractors reached out to Epoxytec about the possibility of its products being used on smaller diameter pipe or more confined spaces. “Our customers were really pushing us to come with innovative ideas on how to get our products onto a wall on small diameter pipes and get more efficient in our application in manholes and other mainline pipes,” Caputi says. “We did a lot of R&D to get ultra-high build, pasty-like epoxy that could go on very thick. We started working with vendors to spray [the epoxy].”
John Thompson is Epoxytec’s national sales manager and has been with the company for nearly four years. He describes the company’s growth as strong and steady as it continues to expand nationally and internationally. The East Coast remains its largest market, with significant gains in the Pacific Northwest, Southwest and southern state regions. “This growth has been made possible by our certified applicator network, product performance and the entire team at Epoxytec,” Thompson says. “Our expansion in to other areas of [the United States] are quickly reaching East Coast type levels.”
Keys to Success
When reflecting on the hows and whys their companies are successful, attributions consistently point to their products and people as the driving force. You need a great product for customers to buy and you need great people to get the product in the customers’ hands. Epoxytec’s leaders shine their praise on both of these, as well.
“I have to attribute our success to our people. We’ve done a great job recruiting talented people and passionate people who want to be with a smaller company and who understood our vision,” Caputi says.
But he also notes that by people he also means their customers, who have pushed Epoxytec to create the products they need —without the customers, there is no Epoxytec. “Our customers really drive our innovations,” he says simply. “We really keep our ears open to customers’ demands and inquiries.”
Epoxytec director of production and lead chemist Ross Davidson adds that the company’s success can also be credited to the process by which the products are created and developed. “In addition to the open-minded approach to research we have, the systems and procedures we have are what contribute to our success. We’ve been able to develop a number of policies that allows us to become efficient and competitive. It’s led to a culture of hard work, great attitudes and camaraderie.”
Both Thompson and Davidson add another component to the company’s success: the culture. They say that the family culture cultivated first by Joseph Caputi and carried on by his son, is a key factor in the company’s growth and overall success. It’s that sense of family and pull to help the industry and the south Florida community why the Caputis didn’t think twice about pitching in during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and switch its product line from epoxies to hand sanitizer to help front line workers and first responders.
“[Pitching in during the pandemic] shows the soul of Epoxytec,” Thompson says. “Ownership has always stressed doing things the right way. Standards and specifications are to be followed. At Epoxytec, you do things the right way or you don’t do them at all… The success of clients is our success.”
The trenchless rehab market is extremely competitive and there are many companies and products out there vying for customers’ attention and dollars. The Epoxytec team is quick to note that not all products are created equal and made for every situation. He says it’s important for customers to do their research and talk through what their needs are when looking for a water and wastewater solution.
Epoxytec products carry a 10-year warranty, something that the team extremely proud of. “That’s pretty unique in this industry,” Thompson says of the warranty. “For us to support a 10-year warranty, we need qualified applicators that follow the specifications, technical data and the standards set forth in the industry that give us the greatest opportunity to protect the substrate and give long-term asset protection.”
As the company continues to grow, so did the number of family members working at Epoxytec. Michael Caputi’s wife, Silvia, took over the sales/marketing and administrative side of the company. Her late uncle, Nick Stroud, also came on board and proved instrumental in helping Epoxytec make the pivot to focusing on the water and wastewater markets. And, of course, there’s always the company founder who is not involved in day-to-day operations but whose mentorship is readily available.
“A lot of people might think that is a challenge,” Caputi says of working with family. “[Silvia] has her own department that she runs and I have my own. We drive separately to work and have separate offices. We collaborate when needed and this creates a healthy environment to work with family. The family has always worked well together because we always respect where our strengths are.”
And while the company looks to the future, its past remains a vital link to that success. Joseph Caputi may be semi-retired but don’t tell him that. He remains plugged into the company he founded from the ground up, making sure the culture and vision he created in 1991 are still flourishing. More importantly, he still enjoys meeting with long-established customers and providing perspective and insight, when needed.
“He still keeps in touch with some customers who have been with us since the early days,” says Caputi. “As an Italian immigrant and entrepreneur who’s been driving this business since 1991, I don’t think he’s every going to consider himself retired.”
The rollercoaster ride of the last 18 months has proven that the future is hard to predict, and nothing is a given, but Caputi is gratified that his father is here to see and enjoy what Epoxytec has built over the years.
“That is the most satisfying part of it all, him seeing this whole evolution from a regional-focused smaller company to now, growing to a midsize, national and international company,” he says. “And I’m very optimistic about our growth and expansion going forward.”