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Aireps: Prioritizing Vendor Relationships

When asked what she wanted to be when she grew up, Sheri Chaffin used to say, “the boss.”

Chaffin is the co-founder and chief executive of Anaheim-based distributor of aerospace parts Aireps Inc. and has over 20 years of experience in the aerospace industry.

The lack of women in executive positions didn’t deter Chaffin from starting her own business.

“You just have to keep lifting yourself up as much as you can and find mentors who can help you,” Chaffin told the Business Journal.

Under Chaffin’s leadership, Aireps has earned the title of “silver supplier” from Boeing (NYSE: BA) for providing over 6 million parts with 99.98% of deliveries made on time.

The company serves other notable clients in the industry including Defense Logistics Agency, Tinker Air Force Base, L3 Technologies and Gulfstream Aerospace.

Buying Smart

It’s all about buying smart and investing in price breaks when it comes to being a distributor, Chaffin said.

“You’ll have a little bit more stock in the warehouse, and you won’t have to worry about the lead time because you’ve already got it,” Chaffin said.

Aireps is a distributor of aerospace parts for both commercial and military purposes.

It specializes in consumable hardware items like bolts, fasteners and connectors, as well as specialized manufactured parts such as cargo equipment, batteries and panels.

Supply chain shortages and delays have eased up since the pandemic; however, pricing has increased “tremendously” as a result, according to Chaffin.

“When one manufacturer goes away, a product can go away,” she said. “That means you have to start over with building the tooling for that part.”

Chaffin is navigating some of these issues by finding alternate manufacturers who can work faster by creating parts from scratch.

She also stressed the importance of monitoring the news cycle and market trends to anticipate needs for certain parts.

“When there’s a war in Ukraine, we know there’s more C-17s flying around dropping food and humanitarian efforts in those areas, so you can watch the news and gauge what your workload’s going to be,” Chaffin said.

A Seat at the Table

Prior to Aireps, Chaffin was an accountant, real estate agent and attorney.

“I believe these are three areas of expertise that are helpful in life no matter your career path,” Chaffin said.

Chaffin recalls when she first started in real estate in her 20s, people treated her as “just a girl sitting at the table.”

After the real estate market took a turn downwards, she went to Western State College of Law and got her law degree in 1994.

“It made a huge difference in how people treated me,” she said.

It was in 2000 that Chaffin’s husband, who has experience in sales and manufacturing in the aerospace industry, came to her, wanting to start a company.

Aireps began in the basement of the couple’s home and has since grown to more than $47 million in revenue for last year, ranking No. 19 on the Business Journal’s annual list of women-owned businesses.

Chaffin has overseen all aspects of the company for the past seven years since her husband retired in 2017.

Aireps counts 15 employees at its Anaheim headquarters.

“Being a small business, we are able to respond to the customer’s specific needs quickly and efficiently,” Chaffin said.

Chaffin attributes the company’s recent growth to favorable economic factors such as more passengers flying airlines and cargo being moved via air but most importantly, vendor relationships.

Aireps currently stocks over 35,000 unique parts for dozens of different airframes.

“Our vendor relationships have become more varied and stronger—these relationships are key to the product we are able to supply,” Chaffin said.

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Sonia Chung
Sonia Chung
Sonia Chung joined the Orange County Business Journal in 2021 as their Marketing Creative Director. In her role she creates all visual content as it relates to the marketing needs for the sales and events teams. Her responsibilities include the creation of marketing materials for six annual corporate events, weekly print advertisements, sales flyers in correspondence to the editorial calendar, social media graphics, PowerPoint presentation decks, e-blasts, and maintains the online presence for Orange County Business Journal’s corporate events.
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