Finalist: Small Business of the Year-1999
Past President of NAWBO (Nationall Ass’n of Women Business Owners)2001-2003
Leadership Memphis Graduate-Class of 2004
Taught a Literacy Class for 7 years
Mentor-City of Memphis’ Seeking to Serve Program:2005-2007
Honored as one of the “50 Women Who Make a Difference” Awards-2007
Finalist: Executive of the Year-2011

FINALIST IN SMALL BUSINESS AWARDS
(AS PUBLISHED IN THE MEMPHIS BUSINESS JOURNAL – MARCH, 1999)
When Deborah Carpenter joined two partners to acquire the assets of a bankrupt spring and U-bolt manufacturing shop in 1982, she didnít know the first thing about the automotive aftermarket. 17 years later, Carpenter is the sole owner of Custom Springs, Inc., and has become known to her customers and competitors as “The Spring Lady”, a reputation and nickname she carries with great pleasure. After years of studying the business, the manufacturers and the parts, Carpenter has mastered the business. But she still gets surprised looks from new customers when they realize that she is the one crawling under the truck to determine what kind of part the vehicle needs. “I don’t consider this an obstacle, but a most satisfying challenge,” says Carpenter, who has been the sole owner of Custom Springs since 1994. “I like the uniqueness of being a woman in a man’s field.”I used to have to call my competitors to get answers. Now they call me. I love that.”

Custom Springs manufactures leaf springs and U-bolts for the automotive aftermarket. The company buys raw, untempered spring steel in 22′ bars and then shears, punches, heats, rolls, and tempers it with its own on-site furnaces. The company also does trailer repair, aluminum boat repair, coil springs sales and installation, hitch installation, roll-up door repair and various welding jobs. “At first I didn’t know anything about the business, but I knew I wanted to be the best,” says Carpenter, who had been among the few women nationwide in truck tire sales prior to joining Custom Springs.

“So I had to dig in and learn. I’ve worked hard to understand the peculiarities of the different manufacturers so I can help my customers. That’s the secret to my success and learn everything I could about springs,” she says. “Being the most knowledgeable person makes me unique.” After launching the company with one employee, the company recorded $93,000 in sales. The company recorded $400,000 in sales last year, up from $362,000 in 1997. And employment is remaining steady with seven last year and six in 1997. “Our business is rather unique because you don’t find a spring shop on every corner,” she says. “When you come in you get the impression that you are in a blacksmith shop.” And keeping that feel is among her primary goals. She wants to avoid the trend of shutting down furnaces, something she considers important because it enables the firm to market parts that are no longer manufactured, she says. The company is also developing a Web site on the Internet, which is expected to increase their customer base considerably. “We can make any type spring, from a buggy spring to a tractor spring, even if they are obsolete,” she says. “I think that is important because there are customers who still need those parts.”
By James Overstreet