Debby Arrin Continues to Stomp the Competition
Debby Arrin is not your average mother and wife. After raising two kids, now aged 23 and 27, Arrin found her niche in a field that is predominantly male. With her own company, Straight Road Electronics, she is raising the bar and not letting anything stop her from continuing to expand her business while maintaining a family and she’s doing it all proudly wearing high heels.
Arrin’s Straight Road Electronics is a small, woman-owned company with state-of-the-art inventory management. They are an authorized distributor and have access to obsolete and hard to find components. The company specializes in application design and support, cable assemblies, bonded stock programs, value added services, special packaging, barcode labeling, and kitting, among other products and services.
Arrin, the youngest of four siblings, did a lot of secretarial work in the beginning of her career, but decided to take a break from the working world to be a stay-at-home mom for her two children, until they started school. She then decided, in her late 30’s, to make the drastic change of going back to school. She went to California State University, Long Beach, where she obtained her degree in Elementary Education.
Soon after, Arrin was led on a slightly different path when she was approached out of the blue by a neighbor who knew of a part-time job in the electronic industry, which Arrin did not know anything about at the time. Arrin also didn’t realize at the time that she was falling into a field that she would become an expert in and learn to have a strong passion for.
Learning the industry wasn’t insurmountable for Arrin, although it was a learning process. At first, she needed to learn only the nuts and bolts of the industry which was attainable. Details came later. Her patient and dedicated attitude kept her sane.
“I knew I didn’t need to become an expert on it all at once. I learned as I went along,” said Arrin.
Arrin’s job, at first, consisted of more basic work being a part-time inside salesperson, taking and filling orders for Kensington Electronics Inc. She then became account manager, managing accounts, keeping track of clients, and making phone calls to them when she knew they needed something. She then went on to manage the entire sales department. She was at the company for 14 years, until the company decided to move to Texas. Arrin knew this was not the plan for her, so she had a plan brewing four months in advance. She would create her own electronic business in Orange County, and use all of her knowledge that she had learned along the way.
The transition from Kensington Electronics Inc. to building Straight Road Electronics was an easy one. For her, the development process started while she was still working with Kensington Electronics Inc. She had the liberty of working on getting her business license and getting other bases covered in her spare time or even on lunch breaks because of the support from her current job. She immediately had an office space, so in June of 2004, Straight Road Electronics was ready to open for business.
From June to December of 2004, the business was in a sort of “honeymoon” period. They experienced lots of ‘firsts’ and everything was easy. With the start of 2005, however, the ‘firsts’ started to cease, and reality set in.
“When starting a new business, there needs to be more than an experiment. Starting a company is very exciting, but when the excitement wanes, that’s the toughest part,” said Arrin.
Arrin says she realizes that she is in a predominantly male industry, and at first, it was somewhat of a struggle to deal with.
“This is definitely a male-dominated industry. I do have to prove myself in new situations and in new ventures and relationships. I don’t see very many females in the business,” said Arrin.
Arrin’s favorite part of the industry is the diversity, as her daily tasks and processes vary from day to day.
“It fascinates me that our products are seen everywhere. The scope of where the parts end up is diverse, and that’s exciting,” said Arrin.
The application of her products and where they go gives Arrin and her team a glimpse of the economy of both big and small organizations, which is another thing that she loves about her job. For Arrin, the industry isn’t just about manufacturing products. It is a way to both contribute to and analyze how the surrounding economy and world is doing as well as how she and her company can impact it.
Being a mother and a business owner has its challenges, however. Arrin says that sometimes she is not so good at maintaining balance in her life.
“It is easy to work every hour of every day [in this industry]. It’s sometimes hard to pull myself away-I don’t always get to balance life as I should.”
Luckily, Arrin has the full support of her family and her husband, who is also in the electronic and technology industry. While jumpstarting her business, her husband never put financial demands on her, so she had free reign to let her company ‘gel’, as she puts it, and become lucrative at a leisurely pace. She considers herself lucky to have had the financial security to make her dreams a reality and create Straight Road Electronics.
Arrin’s children, now adults in their own careers, have certainly been inspired by their mother’s journey. Although they are not in the electronic and technology industry, they know that they can follow in their mother’s footsteps if they want. She has taught them that anything is possible.
“My kids now have the notion in their heads in their own fields that they have the ability to make their own companies,” said Arrin.
At first, because the field was so foreign to her, Arrin would be embarrassed to admit if something didn’t make sense or if someone threw out a term that she didn’t necessarily know the definition to, but now she truly has become comfortable in her own skin and her own abilities.
“Today, I can say ‘What the heck is that?’ and be okay with it. It’s okay to get to that point,” said Arrin.
“One of the best things about my career is that I have discovered that I can be myself. I am not the young whippersnapper who just graduated from the top technology school, I’m not a tycoon. The nice thing is that you realize what you’re not and what you have. Now I can be who I am,” said Arrin.
This path for Arrin has not only been a successful one, but an unexpected one also, with lots of discoveries along the way. Arrin has not only become successful in what she does, but has become 100% comfortable doing what she is doing and knowing who and what she is, and wearing that badge proudly.
“I finally don’t have to pretend I’m not a woman, and that’s such a great thing.”
By Danielle Evans
Photo by Don Haynes