Ryan Edginton, the President and CEO All-Fill, a manufacturer of packaging machinery based in Exton, spoke with VISTA Today about growing up in Chester Springs when the area was “very remote”; the lessons — particularly about accountability, teamwork, and dedication — he learned and the relationships he built from playing a variety of sports; attending Malvern Prep, and earning an athletic scholarship from baseball powerhouse Arizona State.
Edginton also discussed being the third generation of his family to lead All-Fill; the influence his grandfather, who started the company in 1969, had on him; and the opportunities that lie ahead for the business.
Where were you born, and where did you grow up?
I was born the oldest of four children in Bryn Mawr in 1980, and I grew up in the Chester Springs area.
What did your parents do?
I am the third generation here at All-Fill. My dad was the second generation, and my grandfather founded the company in 1969. My brothers and my cousin work for All-Fill as well. My mom took care of us kids.
What memories do you have growing up in Chester Springs?
I remember playing with my siblings and playing organized sports in the area. All four of us kids were always active, involved, running around going to an event or game. My parents were always driving us to one thing or another.
How has Chester Springs area changed since you were a kid?
We lived in Chester Springs but we played LYA (Lionville Youth Association) and Downingtown Young Whippets. We were the only kids from Chester Springs that were involved in these sports.
At the time, Chester Springs was very remote. There were only a few houses in and around Chester Springs.
Now, Chester Springs is one of the most desired area codes to live in. When my parents moved there, it was sort of like, “where is this place?!” The area has certainly grown from a population standpoint, and sports are so visible nowadays. There are a lot more opportunities now.
Did your parents get you involved in sports?
My dad loved getting us involved in things. We started with youth sports – football, baseball, and basketball – and it’s just what we did. We played all the time. It became a way of life. My brothers and sisters followed along. We were always active.
How early did you start playing sports?
My dad signed me up for Downingtown Young Whippets football, which was by far one of the best experiences I ever had. The coaches were so tough and really held me accountable. Today, they’d probably be in jail for their coaching methods. They hardened us at a young age and taught us sacrifice, commitment, toughness, and dedication.
What did “being held accountable” look like to you back then?
There was a rule for missing practices and games; if a member of the team was sick, the player had to come to the field and show the coach that they were sick, and then the coach would be excused and could go home.
I was one of the better players on the team, and one night I was sick. My mom was running around with us four kids on a rainy fall night when I had practice. My dad was away on business. She couldn’t get me to the field to show the coach I wasn’t feeling well. As a result, even though I was the best kid on the team, I sat on the bench for our game that weekend. The rule was that if you break the rules, there would be consequences. I didn’t really understand it at eleven years old, but I had to deal with the consequences.
Examples like that have stayed with me in everyday life as a father, husband and business owner.
What lessons did you take from sports that stay with you today?
Teamwork and dedication. I understand that all aspects of a team have to work for the product to be good. It’s about the top, the bottom, and everything in between.
For instance, one of the first sports we did was wrestling. My father wrestled in high school at Great Valley and wanted us to get involved in the sport. Even at a young age, the first thing a wrestler does at the beginning of a match is shake his opponent’s hand. He taught us that the handshake is everything, and I could know if I would win or lose based on that handshake. I took that with me in life. The moment you meet, the first impression and handshake, you’re setting the tone for how the next six minutes are going to go. We tell our children that today.
How did you keep your ego in check?
You have to set an example for others. There’s an example to follow that’s not just about your athletic ability, brain, business sense, or acumen. It’s about how you work, and you want others to follow you. There’s no time for complacency. The second you do that, you allow everyone else to relax. There’s really no difference between being the captain of the sports team, the leader of an organization, or the company’s CEO. You try and lead by example and hope your actions rub off on others.
When was the first time you realized you were better than most on the field?
It wasn’t until I was about twelve years old and I made an all-star team and a couple of select teams. You start to figure out that you’re a little bigger and faster than the other guys out there. That’s a real confidence-builder, knowing you’re playing something that you’re going to excel at. It comes from your coaches and then recognition from others outside of the organization.
Do you have a favorite moment from sports that stands out to you?
My experience at Malvern Prep was just such a good one. I can’t think of a singular experience and point to it. Obtaining a college scholarship was a big deal for me.
I can’t speak enough about the relationships I made through sports. It replaced that on-site job experience that I would have gotten had I worked, but sports were my job growing up. The people I met and the connections I made in nearly every state were great. I can call those people for a favor even today. Those relationships never end.
After Malvern Prep, why did you go ASU?
I don’t have any regrets about going to ASU. I went simply for the baseball reputation and the scholarship they offered me. In hindsight, if I were to give my son advice, I would tell him to use his athletic ability to achieve the most you achieve academically.
It was a tremendous experience, but I wish I parlayed my athletic ability in the best possible education that I could have gotten. Whether I played two sports at an Ivy League School or gone to a Service Academy, something that would develop me into the best person I am today. Education at the best institutions is so hard for so many to obtain. I would have used my talents to get where I needed to go academically, and I know that would have pushed me so much harder off the field than it would have on the field.
Sports are great but the success rate to actually make a profession out of it is so low, so an athlete needs to take the mindset that if sports will one day be their occupation, the scouts will find you no matter where you are. Education, on the other hand, is the most important element of success.
You transferred to Miami University In Oxford, Ohio after two years?
I spent two years at ASU and had an injury, so I was half the player I once was. At that level, it’s so competitive so once you lose a step or two, you have to look for alternative options.
What did Miami do you for that ASU didn’t?
Miami changed and altered my life, athletic experience aside! I met my wife there! My wife is my absolute soulmate and partner in crime. We have four kids together, and I can’t do what I do professionally without her support on the home front.
Did you get serious about your education at Miami?
I was always serious about my education. I think college athletes get a bad wrap when it comes to education. The coaches at that level are paid not only to win on the field but to graduate student-athletes.
At eighteen, knowing that I could have gotten into a better college that I couldn’t have gotten to grade-wise without sports, I realized I should have parlayed my athletisim into a better education opportunity. I didn’t recognize that at that age.
I’m sure Malvern Prep pushed you.
Malvern Prep is great at developing well-rounded students. At Malvern Prep, It’s one thing to be an athlete, but it’s even cooler to be an athlete who plays the drums in the band. Malvern Prep encourages you to be who you want to be. They bring in the spiritual aspect of it. They want you to be a good athlete. They want you to be smart in the classroom.
Malvern Prep opened my eyes to looking at my peers differently. Just because you’re different, doesn’t mean we can’t be friends. My best friends now in life are kids I graduated Malvern with and never hung out with while I was there.
After college, who were the people who saw promise in you?
I work for a family business, so I have to look directly toward my family members. My grandfather started the company that I have the honor of running today. He was a visionary. In 1969, he had the courage and the smarts to actually go out on his own and start something with no guarantee. When I look at my grandfather, I see him as an inspiration. It’s simply my job to carry on and grow what he started. That’s a job I embrace. Without a doubt, he’s one of the most influential people in my life. The thing that’s never changed is the work ethic and the attitude to forge on and do more.
What do you think your grandfather saw in you?
Confidence, leadership, and the ability to engage others. No team and no business is defined by one person. I realize I can’t do it alone, and I need to surround myself with the best people I can find.
How does humility factors into your leadership style?
I have to look in the mirror. When I look in the mirror, I don’t tell myself what I want to see. A real evaluation and humility are the best qualities I have. No one is perfect but there is always something else to strive for. Knowing I am not perfect keeps me hungry and always pushes me for more. It is important to stay uncomfortable in business, the second you relax the other guy is going to pass you by. By making yourself uncomfortable you continue to push onward for more. When you eventually stop, you will be amazed at what you accomplished.
Who else saw promise in you?
I have to go back to my college coaches, especially my coach at Miami University, Tracy Smith. When Coach Smith told me I was the captain of a Division 1 baseball team, that’s something that I never took for granted. I took that with me through life as well. There’s no difference between being the captain of the baseball team and running a business. People look to you for advice, motivation, and to lead by example.
Looking forward, what are your priorities and opportunities are you focused on at All-Fill?
We manufacture machinery for consumer package goods. Anything that anyone would buy in the store, we manufacture the machinery for that. Over the past five years, our focus was on growth via company acquisition, so we spent time acquiring a few companies and blended them into our product line to grow our product offering.
The pandemic affected so many businesses in different ways. For us, our machines package consumer-packaged goods, so there’s always a need for products. The more the population grows, the more there is a need for consumable goods.
Given that we have an expanded product line, my main focus is scaling our business upward. We are in growth mode. We are building upward, looking for the best talent, and looking for facilities to grow into. We are fortunate that the pandemic did not alter our business-like others. We will not apologize for it, but we won’t take it for granted either. I am proud that we make products that people need.
Are you looking around the world or focused on the US?
Our efforts are concentrated here domestically. We have a sister company that handles sales into the European nations called “All-Fill International Limited,” but our focus is on domestic.
What are the challenges that All-Fill needs to overcome?
The challenge is scaling upward. It’s a great thing when you have a great product to sell; it’s another thing to service and support it the way our customers expect. The biggest challenge for me is finding the best people that can do the heavily lifting and finding the facilities and the space that we can organically grow into. As quickly as you can gain customers, you’ll lose them twice as fast if you can’t support the product. Bigger can still be better.
What do you do in your spare time?
I have a wife and four kids, what do you think!? When we aren’t chasing our kids around, we love to go to the shore in Ocean City, New Jersey. My wife is from Cleveland, Ohio, so we visit family and friends there. I visit my brother in California. We love to be outdoors and be active. We have season tickets for the Eagles and the Sixers, so we enjoy going to those games as a family.
My wife was an all-American volleyball player at Miami. I assume our kids will become athletes, but we haven’t pushed it yet. We’re allowing them to find their way. We try and raise our kids the way they’re supposed to be raised. We aren’t putting any pressure on them, they will gravitate what interests them and we will offer our full support when the time is right..
Do you read much?
Yes. The last book I read was a Tiger Woods biography. I read often and enjoy learning something new. I recently enjoyed “The Corner Office” and “Shoe Dog” by Phil Knight. I’m always learning something new in my life and draw a lot of inspiration from books.
Where does that curiosity from?
I don’t know. I think a lot of it comes back to sports. You just don’t quit or give up. There’s plenty of time to rest later. I’m in the prime of so many things in life. If I’m not giving it my best, I’m just wasting my time.
Finally, what’s the best piece of advice you ever received, Ryan?
Pat Murphy, the head baseball coach at ASU during my time there, had a great career in baseball and even managed in the major leagues. When we first arrived on campus as freshmen, he told us that we needed to be “palm down,” players. If you extend your dominant hand outward and turn your palm up and “ask” for something, it means you are not willing to work for what you want.
However, if you show up to work every day with that same “palm down,” the hard work will pay off, you will earn what you deserve, and ultimately feel gratified knowing sacrifices were made to get there. If you take this mentality to work, home, and life, and work hard, you’ll usually win in the end.