Family owned, geologist owned and US owned. This is now the status of one of geology’s most oldest and well known equipment brands. Brunton.
A name synonymous with accuracy, high quality and robust field use. Many a field geologist can be identified often by one of two pieces of equipment. Either their Estwing hammer, or their Brunton transit compass. Brunton has gone through many changes and hands over the decades. But one can safely say, it has now returned home and is in the safest hands possible. Those of CEO, Lauren Heerschap and COO, David Heerschap. But just who are Lauren and David? And who are in their team? Lets find out.
The Black Hills, South Dakota. Lauren, currently an undergraduate. Is engaged in heated discussion with her field team on how to tackle measuring a Cambrian sandstone bed which was almost vertical. And so began her journey of using Brunton instruments. Which Lauren then subsequently went on to use for field work in Egypt and Taiwan for research, and then throughout the western US during a decade of teaching field methods and field camps.
Her husband, David is also fond of the outdoors and was a science educator at the time and had just started a company called ‘Real Science Innovations’. Which offered home-made teaching tools and field equipment for science teachers and students.
During her seventh year teaching such camps. Lauren was struck with an idea to produce an instrument which would tackle issues she had experience during her time as a student and her career up to that point. That idea was then prototyped by her husband and engineer, David. Astonishingly, in their garage over a winter break. Taking sketches Lauren had made, David diligently produced three prototypes. The third was short of aluminium, leading to David to sacrifice his climbing equipment and melt them down for the required material. The models worked, much to Laurens surprised.
The prototyped model, simply called the Plane Sight Compass, performed as Lauren envisioned. That was to simplify a number of measuring processes and techniques, such as orientation, dip and strike, plunges, trends, bearings and more. All within one instrument.
In 2014, the pair approached Brunton Co, with the idea. The rest is history as they say. “They could see its benefits. They went for it right away.”
And so, the Brunton Axis Transit came to be.
Two years later, the Brunton Axis Transit compass was refined, renamed and rebranded. Both Lauren and David were involved heavily with production, roll out and sales and marketing. Meeting various industry professionals and attending many industry conferences to show case the, “new kid on the block” compass. Even going as far as to uproot from their home in the state or Colorado to Wyoming to be closer to the Brunton HQ.
It was clear that Lauren and David were something special and if Brunton wanted to move forward. It was only wise to bring them permanently on board. Previous Brunton engineer of 40 years, Hank Iden, was nearing retirement. Which created the opportunity for David to join as lead engineer. A few years later, in early 2021, Lauren also officially joined the Brunton team as Pro & International Sales Manager.
In 2021, much to their surprise. Both David and Lauren were approached by brand management with an offer. One could even say, the offer of a lifetime. That was, the opportunity to acquire the Brunton brand and all of its assets.
A good business owner knows when to keep good workers. A better business owner will bring them into the company. The best often know when it’s time to take a step back. And if they want their brand and name to succeed. To pass it down. As David says: “The previous owner was looking to sell to the right buyers, and he recognized that in us. You won’t find two people more passionate or knowledgeable about Brunton products than Lauren and me.”
Rather than the usual, straight valuation and sale. Brunton management realised in order for the brand to continue and expand. Outside thinking would be required. And so Lauren and David received a favorable offer from the previous brand owner.
“We’re honored and excited to be the new caretakers of a brand with a very long and rich heritage, both in Wyoming and in the broader professional and recreational communities,” says Lauren, who is now majority owner and CEO. “I am also proud to make Brunton a woman-owned, family-owned, geologist-owned Wyoming small business for the first time in its 128-year history. I’m pretty sure that combination hasn’t happened yet for Brunton until now.” – Lauren Heerchap, Brunton CEO
The company went through an upheaval of sorts and with brand names returning to the US, many agreements became null and void. There was one problem. All of a sudden, Brunton compasses were no longer available in Europe.
Being the inquisitive type. Axial Exploration and Drilling Supplies Ltd director, Nitesh Patel. (Then co-owner and director of Northern Geological Supplies Ltd), sent some emails to Brunton HQ. Pleading his case that Bruntons brand could and should still be sold in Europe if possible. Weeks went by and Nitesh had given up hope and assumed he had been disregarded.
In late 2022. His email had passed through multiple channels and landed in front of, none other than Lauren Heerschap herself. And just like that, Bruntons were available for purchase again. Lauren explained the situation of the pending sale to Nitesh as well as her experience, background and being the inventor of the Axis Transit. An instrument Nitesh had often highly regarded and promoted. Some months later, Nitesh took part in an online video meeting with both Lauren and Monika Leopold, (Bruntons professional sales and marketing manager).
“It was great meeting with Lauren and Monika, it opened my eyes that there is a lot more I need to do with my own business, (Then Northern Geological Supplies), if it is to really succeed”. – Nitesh Patel. The trio discussed various topics, including promotion of Brunton instruments in the UK and Europe, each others future business plans, upcoming projects of both sides. Model variations and student items.
“I don’t consider that I ever had one mentor during my short time running a business. But I have been fortunate to have had many. I’m proud to say I consider Lauren and Monika among them”.
Once the meeting wrapped up, Brunton compasses were secured. Axial Exploration and Drilling Supplies Ltd is proud to continue its business with Brunton, bringing the well-known brand name into the future.
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Caitlin Palmer – Axial Exploration and Drilling Supplies Ltd Content Creator