Sumiton Christian graduate shuns teaching career for her dream job — owning a scrap metal business
by Chris Yow
Nov 22, 2010 | 6286 views | 0 0 comments | 41 41 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Sunny Black stands in the middle of a pile of scrap metal at Black Warrior Recycling. Black, a 25-year-old Sumiton Christian graduate, is owner of the business, located on U.S. Highway 78 near Sumiton. Photo by: James Phillips
Sunny Black stands in the middle of a pile of scrap metal at Black Warrior Recycling. Black, a 25-year-old Sumiton Christian graduate, is owner of the business, located on U.S. Highway 78 near Sumiton. Photo by: James Phillips
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SUMITON — Sunny Black had planned to be a teacher.

She finished her degree at Samford University and was ready for the school life. That was until she fell in love with metal.

Not heavy metal music, such as Metallica, but the 25-year-old Sumiton Christian graduate fell in love with aluminum and copper.

“I finished up at Samford with a degree in education, and I was going to work on my masters. I knew Don Kelly, who was in the scrap metal business, and I would always hear of people taking stuff like a washer and dryer to scrap locations in Jasper and talking about the money they made,” Black said. “I thought if they could make money like that, why couldn’t I make money buying it on a larger scale in rural areas?”

From there her dream was to own her own scrap metal business, Black Warrior Recycling.

“Since 2008, though, I wanted a scrap yard,” she said. “Last Christmas someone asked me what I wanted, and I said a scrapyard. They thought I was crazy.”

Crazy, perhaps, but Black’s business is thriving.

Kelly, who helped her along the way become more knowledgeable of the industry, said he was surprised at how well Black Warrior Recycling is doing so far.

“It takes someone who wants to do this to be successful. She worked hard every day. She worked all hours. She learned from the ground up. I sort of expected her to learn that way. If you’re going to be competitive you can’t expect other people to know it and you not know it,” he said.

Learning the business is one aspect Black said she is very happy to do.

“I didn’t know the first thing. I couldn’t tell you what copper looked like, much less No. 1 and No. 2 copper. I didn’t grow up in it, but I’ve learned,” she said. “I like being on my toes. I’m high strung a little bit, and I love this. I love the unknown. I’m probably different than most because this is run by a woman. But I know what I’m doing now and I get out there in the middle of it. I have bruises all over.”

Staying competitive in the scrap metal business takes a person who can change quickly. Kelly said.

“To her credit, she knows as much as people who have been in this business for 10 years. She’s a fast learner and she concentrates on what she’s doing and where she’s going,” he added.

Black said the changing is something she thrives on, “You have to know what people are selling and for what prices. They change daily. If I’m not sure about something, I’ll ask somebody else. I don’t want to get ripped off and I don’t want to rip people off. A good deal is a good deal for both of us.”

Kelly said he was very excited about the business and how well it has done.

“We’re right at 90 days open and she’s doing as well as people who have been in business for years. She’s well known in the community. For some reason, I never dreamed it would do as well as it is doing.”

Black said she is able to stay competitive because she is working as hard as anyone.

“I’ll do it all. It doesn’t matter. I’ve even driven the truck several times. Whatever it takes, I’ll do it.

“Monday, even though it was raining, I got out there and sorted stuff because I wanted it done a little different.”

Black said she is constantly thinking of ways to improve the company’s day-to-day operations.

“When I walk in, I immediately think about making money that day. How can I make my employees more productive? How can I get my customers in and out? How do I keep my customers happy? Without them I wouldn’t have this.”

Her way is not the only way, Black said. She listens to those who know the business, but the final word is hers.

“Don and I butt heads. I butt heads with my dad, don’t think we don’t. But at the end of the day, we all have the same goal, and that is to be successful,” Black said.

The scrap yard is located off Highway 78 near Stella Lockhard Road just outside the Sumiton city limits.

The house where the offices are located was the same house her dad grew up in.

“This place is special to me. I want to keep it the way it needs to be kept.”

She has certainly done well in keeping her yard cleaner than most others.

“You can tell this is run by a woman because of how clean it is. My grandmother said she drove by and told me it was the nicest junk yard she’d ever seen,” Black said laughing.

What is the plan if the scrap business doesn’t work out in the long run?

“I’m going to have my degree, and I’m going to keep renewing my certificate because you don’t know what tomorrow may hold. It wouldn’t be a smart decision to let it lapse. Now, do I want to go back and teach? That is a hard job. They are under appreciated.”

But for now, her dream is a reality.