Black History Profile: Duntai Mathews

- Tonight, we conclude our Black History Profile series with one of Rockford's own. He is a businessman who operates on both a national and international scale and has really put the Stateline on the map.

His name is Duntai Mathews, and he owns DLM Manufacturing in Rockford, Illinois.  He was born and raised in the Forest City.
Life wasn't always easy, but he says his home was always filled with love and support, "As a child, I had a great childhood, thanks to my parents [and grandparents], but there were times and opportunities that we didn't have, that made me stronger in life."

He developed an inner strength that propelled him to become a leader in the wood manufacturing industry.

"Growing up, there weren't too many people to reach out to help us. I didn't know any minority business owners besides beauty shops, barber  shops, not to disregard them...I'm talking [knowing people who owned their own] manufacturing [companies]," Mathews adds.

Initially, he says he made a few wrong choices, "There's things I've done in my past that I'm not proud of...always you try to make an extra dollar, how you make a dollar...sometimes it's not by the right book...," he recalls.

Nevertheless, as a younger man, he always knew he wanted to do somthing positive with his life. Now, he's fulfilling that dream right here in Rockford. He purchased a wood company formerly knows as Expressions in Wood. Initially, he worked for the previous owner until that business went under.

When he took the reigns, naming it DLM Manufacturing, he says he gave it new life, "What that did was it made me stronger in life and let me know that the older I grew, that no matter what situation was there, I could always make something out of nothing."

It's a big job, but he doesn't do all it all alone. He has help from his business partner, Bob Childers, in Wisconsin, and even family members offer a hand.

"I call him a great salesman...we both understand each other, so, it's not a favoritism [thing], but  it's just...I feel comfortable working for my  brother-in-law," Lamont Knuckles states.

Knuckles is a valued member of Mathews' staff, a part of the team he attributes to his success. Another key factor to his status within the wood industry is being highly diversified. He considers that to be critical in the wood manufacturing industry. It is something that distinguishes his company and helps to maintain their longevitity.

To put it simply, Mathews takes stacks of wooden boards and turns them into products he sells to suppliers in a number of markets. His first big break came from McDonalds. Chances are, you see and use his products all of the time. His company makes newspaper racks, napkin holders, bib holders, condiment holders, and so much more for Mcdonalds, Burger King, and all of the new Culvers restaurants throught the United States, just to name a few.

"He sets his mind on something, [and then] he goes out and gets it," Knuckles proclaims.

The newest division of his business services the sports arena. His company makes scoring tables and chairs for high schools, Division 1 and 2 colleges nationwide, even NFL franchises like the Washington Redskins. It's all a part of his vision which seeks to grow and infiltrate as many areas of industry as possible.

"Having your own...controlling your own destiny, as I say, that's really important to me," Mathews affirms.

He also seeks to help others, too. Knuckles is all too familiar with the kind of help Mathews supplies. It's somthing that literally took him out of the unemployment line and back into a career. Knuckles says he had decided to leave the wood business to pursue a business venture that didn't work out. 
"...So, I'm appreciative of Duntai for giving me that chance...that's what family's for," Knuckles adds.

Mathews does his part for the community by providing jobs in Rockford. Right now he has 12 employees, but that's not all he has in store for the Forest City.

He says he wants to encourage others to follow in his footsteps, "Hopefully, DLM Manufacturing...besides selling in the market, will be impactful in the community to be able to open some doors for kids who don't have an opportunity or who don't have resources for role models..."

It's a move that is sure to provide a lasting legacy in the Stateline for the generations to come.

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