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Queen City Recycling owner receives SBA honor.

Michelle Coffino of the North Carolina-based scrap firm wins her state’s Small Business Person of the Year Award for 2017.

March 26, 2017
Recycling Today Staff

Michelle Coffino, the owner and CEO of Charlotte, North Carolina-based Queen City Metal Recycling & Salvage, has been named by the Washington-based United States Small Business Administration (SBA) as its North Carolina Small Business Person of the Year for 2017.

A March 2017 letter from the SBA to Coffino cites her “hard work, innovative ideas and dedication to [her] employees and community” that helped Coffino “build an outstanding business that has strengthened” the North Carolina economy.

In April 2016, Coffino was named one of Charlotte’s 50 most influential women by The Mecklenburg Times.

The SBA credited Coffino for giving back to the local community through the Second Chance employment program, summer scholarships for underprivileged children and donations to charities that benefited from the company’s Recycling Metal to Recycle Lives event (the Charlotte Rescue Mission, Charlotte Men’s shelter, Timeout Youth and the Crisis Assistance Ministry).

Queen City Metal also had donated more than 300 bicycles to a local man who refurbishes them and presents them to underprivileged children at local schools.

A hairstylist for more than 30 years, Coffino established Queen City Metal Recycling & Salvage in July 2013 when she purchased the former Gilbert Iron & Steel in Charlotte.

Read more about the award in American Metal Market Daily Magazine.

Read more about the award in the largest recycling publication in United States Recycling Today Magazine.

Mentoring Monday: Advice from women who’ve made it.

Michelle Coffino mentors at Mentoring Monday, a speed-coaching event that gives women quick one-on-one sessions with several mentors they choose. The Charlotte Business Journal’s event at the Sheraton Hotel, one of 41 national events, featured nearly 50 mentors from industries that included finance, marketing, real estate and education.

Read more about the event here.


Michelle Coffino selected as a finalist for Mecklenburg Woman Business Enterprise (WBE) of the Year at the 2015 Crowns of Enterprise Awards.

The Crowns of Enterprise Awards began as a think tank between like-minded small business advocates within the City of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County in May of 2012.  They are now embarking upon their fourth year of recognizing and honoring small businesses that demonstrate exemplary leadership and sound business strategies.  As a collective effort, they strive to acknowledge and display the hard work and resilient efforts of our local small businesses; ultimately, illustrating the positive footprint and economic impact they have on our community.

The 2015 Crowns of Enterprise award ceremony was held on May 7, 2015 at the Palmer Building.  During the event they awarded one outstanding business in each of the following categories: Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) of the Year, Woman Business Enterprise (WBE) of the Year, and Small Business Enterprise (SBE) of the Year. Each award winner received a 2015 Crowns of Enterprise Award, marketing publicity on the City of Charlotte, Mecklenburg County, and Charlotte Business Resources websites and community visibility through numerous social media vehicles.

In efforts of embracing a vision of partnership and collaboration, the Crowns of Enterprise Awards Ceremony not only strives to honor small businesses but to also cultivate an environment that nurtures networking amongst businesses, officials, and government agencies.

Sheared metal: Charlotte hair salon owner buys recycling business

07/28/2013 6:16 PM

As a hairstylist for more than 30 years, Michelle Coffino had never worn a hard hat at work. That changed this spring when she bought Gilbert Iron & Steel, a scrap metal yard on North Tryon Street, north of uptown Charlotte.

Coffino, 47, had been contemplating a major career move for years. Finally she had the time; her triplets were teenagers and busy at Myers Park High School.

“The last thing the kids wanted to do was hang out with me,” she said.

She first started devoting more of her energy to her salon on East Boulevard, called MC3 Salon and Wellness Center. But she’d already mastered the art of cutting hair and developed a base of more than 350 clients.

“I reached a place with my company that I was comfortable with,” she said. “I needed a challenge to step outside my comfort zone.”

Using business savvy gleaned from years of advice from salon clients – many of whom are company CEOs and vice presidents in the Charlotte area – Coffino made some big changes. She has an employee working fulltime to find new customers to build the business, and has found places to cut costs.

On July 12, her company opened with a new name – Queen City Metal Recycling and Salvage.

The 4.5-acre yard accumulates thousands of tons of metal each month, including steel, copper and aluminum. It also recycles electronics and about 600 cars a month.

Coffino, who still owns her salon, said her new endeavor satisfies her environmental tendencies. She also believes metal recycling is a hot market.

Buying and revamping a metal recycling business may seem like “an out-of-the-blue” move, as her daughter, Kim, puts it.

But years of hard work and measured decisions in her hair salon business assured the entrepreneurial Coffino that she was taking the right step.

And she had money to invest. She said she’d saved cash from her many years in the hair and salon business and had set aside about $50,000 from successful stock market investments that she pulled out before the crash.

Styling glamour girls

Coffino, from Pontiac, Mich., entered beauty school at 15 as a way to jump-start her professional career.

After graduating two years later, she moved to California. By the early 1990s, she was working for Redken and Vidal Sassoon in West Hollywood, styling the hair of stars such as Heather Locklear, Drew Barrymore and Dana Delaney, she said.

But Coffino found the Beverly Hills lifestyle too fast-paced. She and her then-husband moved to Matthews in 1994.

Three years later, Coffino and her husband split. She was left alone with 16-month-old triplets.

“Survival – that’s the first thing that popped into my head,” she said. “I thought, ‘Oh my God, I’ve got to feed three kids.’ ”

Coffino went to work: 12-hour days at a salon in Matthews, three days a week. The rest of the time she spent with the kids.

Coffino opened her own salon in Myers Park in 2003. Last November, she moved her business to a house she had gutted and remodeled on East Boulevard.

Contractors ripped up blue-shag carpet, stripped the purple wallpaper and replaced the ’70s-style popcorn ceilings. Finally, she had private rooms constructed, to be used for each haircutting client.

“I wanted to create a warm, homey effect, where everything is organic,” she said.

An astute hairstylist

Three years ago, Coffino met Gilbert Iron & Steel owner Steve Gilbert at a party. He became a haircutting client and vented his frustrations with business finances as Coffino clipped away.

Coffino, who at the time was reading about billionaire Carl Icahn’s exploits in the scrap metal industry, began to identify ways that she could transform Gilbert’s business.

She had other haircutting-clients in the metal industry, some who owned car lots, and others who worked for IBM in manufacturing. She started asking her clients a simple question: What do you do with your scrap?

Coffino, who also reads a lot of business self-help books, said she quickly built a list of potential clients for Gilbert’s yard.

In October 2012, the two discussed Coffino potentially taking over the business. And she bought the company in March, exchanging her black heels for a pair of steel-toed boots at the scrap yard.

Gilbert has stayed on as manager of the yard operations. “It’s nice not having to worry about as much of the administrative stuff,” he said.

A second chance

Walking through the dusty yard last Thursday, around gnarled metal and a crushed Lincoln Town Car, Coffino waved and hooted at an employee.

“Como estás, Jose,” she said.

When Coffino and her CEO, Ken Lagonia, first took over the yard, Coffino decided early to keep all of Gilbert’s employees.

“Michelle always downplays it,” Lagonia said. “We could have cut payroll costs. But she wouldn’t let anyone out of work.”

Coffino has also instituted a hiring process that gives potential employees a second chance. She’s OK’d hiring ex-convicts with no prior sex offenses or violent charges, and today the yard has 34 laborers.

“At the end of the day, people will remember how you treat them,” Coffino said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s in the salon or at the yard.”

Michelle Coffino named to Class of 2016 Champions.

RALEIGH, N.C. Dec 7, 2015 – Monica Smiley, publisher and CEO of Enterprising Women magazine, has announced the winners of the 2016 Enterprising Women of the Year Awards, an annual tribute to the world’s top women entrepreneurs, and a new award level being introduced in 2016, Enterprising Women of the Year Champions. Both the Enterprising Women of the Year Award Winners and Enterprising Women of the Year Champions will be recognized at the 14th Annual Enterprising Women of the Year Awards Celebration & Conference, Sunday, February 28 to Tuesday, March 1 at The Ritz-Carlton Coconut Grove in Miami, Florida.

The annual Enterprising Women of the Year Awards is widely considered one of the most prestigious recognition programs for women business owners. To win, nominees must demonstrate that they have fast-growth businesses, mentor or actively support other women and girls involved in entrepreneurship, and stand out as leaders in their communities. Many of the honorees also serve as leaders of the key organizations that support the growth of women’s entrepreneurship.

Award winners were recognized in seven categories this year: annual sales revenues of more than $100 million; annual sales revenues of more than $25 million and up to $100 million; annual sales revenues of more than $10 million and up to $25 million; annual sales revenues of more than $5 million and up to $10 million; annual sales revenues of more than $2 million and up to $5 million; annual sales revenues of more than $1 million and up to $2 million; and annual sales revenues of up to $1 million.

For the new Champion award category, all revenue levels are represented. While the Enterprising Women of the Year Award Winners are receiving a once-in-a-lifetime award and may not apply again in future years, Champions may apply again to earn the Enterprising Women of the Year Award Winner designation.



Michelle Coffino selected as a Charlotte Business Journal 2015 Women in Business Achievement Award winner!

Join CBJ in honoring 25 of our region’s top businesswomen and our 2015 Lifetime Achievement Award Recipient, Linda Hudson, Chairman and CEO of The Cardea Group at our 19th Annual Women in Business Awards!

  • When: Monday, June 22, 2015, 5:30pm – 8:30pm
  • Where: Sheraton Charlotte Hotel | Le Meridien Charlotte Hotel, 555 South McDowell Street, Charlotte, NC 28202
  • Suggested Dress: Business

Event Information: 2015 Women in Business Awards

This signature CBJ event, now in its 19th year, honors 25 outstanding business women from our region who have made significant contributions to their professions and to their communities during the past year. We invite you to join us for this special celebration as we recognize the 25 winners of 2015, as well as our 2015 Lifetime Achievement Award winner, Linda Hudson, Chairman and CEO of The Cardea Group. The awards celebration will begin with a cocktail hour followed by a seated awards dinner.

All 2015 winners will be profiled in the June 26 issue of the Charlotte Business Journal.

Event Agenda:
5:30 – 6:30pm Registration, Networking & Cocktail Hour
6:30 – 8:30pm Awards Dinner

Congratulations to our 2015 Women in Business Winners!
Adrienne Bain, Wells Fargo
Amy Brindley, Make-A-Wish® Central and Western North Carolina
Darise Caldwell, Novant Health Rowan Medical Center
Rhonda Caldwell, The Main Event, Inc.
Kate Chill, Red Ventures
Pam Clifford, Alston & Bird LLP
Michelle Coffino, Queen City Metal Recycling & Salvage LLC
Amy Davis, Odell Associates Inc.
AJ Desai, EY
Theresa Drew, Deloitte
Camisha Farris, Anointed Flooring Incorporated
Honora Gabriel, Lash Group, a part of AmerisourceBergen
Stacy Gray, Belk, Inc.
Jennifer Guthrie, In Flight Crew Connections
Sharon Harvey, Carlisle & Gallagher Consulting Group
Tracy James, Hamilton Stephens Steele + Martin, PLLC
Kimberly Kendall, The Bissell Companies
Mary Paige Kistler, Impact Financial Systems
Rebecca Lindahl, Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP
Barbara Meeks, Wells Fargo & Company
Sara Nomellini, LPL Financial
Mary Shelton Rose, PricewaterhouseCoopers
Judy Smith, Octapharma Plasma, Inc.
Judy Wishnek, Park Sterling Bank
Lihong Yu, PHT International, Inc.

2015 Lifetime Achievement Award Recipient: Linda Hudson, Chairman and CEO, The Cardea Group

Hairdresser brings her own style to recycling industry.


Shrinking scrap margins and increased competition have been enough to make many recyclers wish that they were out of the business. But one newcomer isn’t fazed: hairdresser Michelle Coffino, who has added a metal shear to her array of tools.

No, Coffino doesnt believe that if you can cut hair you can cut anything, but she does believe that business is business. The market is very challenging and changes daily, but walking out of one business into another, as long as you have good accounting, is possible, she said.

After spending years building up a large clientele at her successful salon in Charlotte, N.C., the mother of triplets had saved up some money and was ready to try something new.

One of her clients was Steve Gilbert, the owner of Gilbert Iron & Steel, which had closed its doors, and through their conversations she became interested in the world of metals. Long story short: Coffino bought the 4.5-acre property, a shear, baler and two cranes, and opened in July as Queen City Metal Recycling & Salvage, employing 39 workers and purchasing scrap from 200 to 400 customers daily.

Learning how to run a business, build relationships and network has enabled me to facilitate a different path, Coffino said. Acknowledging that she is new to the world of scrap, she is overseeing the financial part of the business and delegating other duties.

Coffino has retained Gilbert, whose thorough knowledge of metals has been invaluable in yard operations. I realized right away that youd better know your metals and how to price them, and Steve is amazing at this. Plus, he is a hands-on guy who can problem solve issues like repairing equipment, she said. While Gilbert formerly owned the same yard, he is much more formidable when working directly with the metals and customers as opposed to being tucked away in an office.

Hair styling and metal recycling have some common ground: both require networking skills and are cash intensive. A lot of people misconstrue hairdressers as being creative artists, but it is a cash business and at the end of the day you are counting money, Coffino said. She also understands balancing a budget, and made the cuts and changes that were needed to be successful.

Once Coffino decided to buy the assets, she hired a forensics accountant to do an analysis and make sure that everything had a clean start. She then relied on advice from her father, whose career spanned the manufacturing sector. Compliance is one area he cautioned her on, but Coffino has delegated one employee to oversee all compliance and is quick to point out that the beauty industry and its shops are regulated as well. With any business there is always compliance. At the salon we operate lasers and you can blind someone with a laser, she said.

People skills are important, too. When someone sat in my chair, I had about 11 seconds to assess them and their expectations. I have hair customers ranging from (chief executive officers) to laborers, she said. And never get so big that you forget to offer personalized service.

Her success at this is illustrated by the fact she used scissors and people skills to grow her business and save up enough to buy the scrap yard. Taking time to listen to customers and always being punctual can translate into success anywhere, she said.

Years ago, when Coffino found herself divorced and with triplet toddlers, she was determined to succeed financially. I didnt come from money but I have an incredible work ethic, she said.

Coffino said that she also is planning ahead. I am obviously looking to grow the company and I am already spinning on how to achieve this. I am a tactician playing chess who is always seven moves ahead. I am assessing other companies that I would like to do business with and am researching potential industrial sources, she said.

Coffinos son is now employed as a laborer at the scrap yard, but he should not expect his mother to hand the business over to him carte blanche. You have to work for what you get in life to appreciate it, and that would not be doing him a service, she said.

Mother Nature has been the biggest headache Coffino has faced since opening. The weather has been the biggest hurdle for us. We were clobbered with rain just about every day in July and into August, she said.


Queen City Metal Recycling & Salvage are proud members of the following organizations:


Queen City Metal Recycling & Salvage

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2800 N. Tryon St., Charlotte, NC 28206

704-332-9752 Office

704-342-5388 Fax

704-376-2370 Scale

Hours: Monday – Friday: 8am – 4:30pm, Saturday: 8am – 1pm

Queen City Metal Recycling & Salvage is an equal opportunity employer.

© 2015 Queen City Metal Recycling & Salvage

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