Will Knecht
chief executive officer
Wendell August Forge
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Will Knecht is the CEO of Wendell August, America's oldest and largest forge, producing hand-wrought ornamental giftware in aluminum and other metals since 1923. On March 2010, two days after receiving its largest order ever, a fire destroyed millions of dollars in equipment and materials, their offices and their flagship store. Instead of ceding to the devastation, Wendell August Forge upped its workforce, struck distribution deals with 600 stores nationwide and broke ground on a new facility. While Will Knecht credits divine intervention and a supportive staff and community for his company's revival, he said rising from the ashes challenged him to take Wendell August Forge higher than it had ever been before. "We were forced to rethink how we did business and what we were as a company. We already had a solid foundation of incredible customers and loyal employees, but suddenly we had an absolute blank canvas to paint on," Will says. "Our insurance team told us to prepare to be out of business for nine months. But the team, the community, all of Western Pennsylvania rallied together, and we had the workshop up and going in five days."