1976-1985 Early Years
1976 – Sterling Oil & Chemical Co., Inc is founded by Laura and Graham Eddleston
Laura and Graham T. Eddleston started Sterling Oil in 1976 by selling quality low-cost, general purpose industrial lubricants, such as hydraulic oils, to the auto and related industries in the Midwest. When Laura and Graham first founded Sterling Oil, they began by servicing a niche – buying and selling factory fill fluids at a reasonable price, with the highest level of quality and service – to the Midwest automotive industry. Eventually, they grew this organization vertically, purchasing trucks and trailers and hiring full-time drivers in the early 1980s.
In 1982, Graham Eddleston was featured in Inc. Magazine: “Mr. Productivity Says Service is The Key”
As this business grew, the couple started to source the raw materials in Canada, and to reduce transportation costs by purchasing road tractors and tanker trucks. They then began bringing these raw materials into rented storage tanks in the Detroit area, and they used their equipment to deliver finished products.
1985-2005 Diversification from a Product Company to a Vertically Integrated Service Company
Sterling Oil took a further step to increase their vertical integration, acquiring a storage and toll blending facility from Gulf Oil in Hamtramck, MI. With this facility, they both store their lubricants and strategically consolidate their tanks, eliminating their need to rent.
Sterling Services, Ltd. was founded in 1985 as the second family-owned and -operated Michigan-based corporation by the Eddleston. Sterling Services was originally a subsidiary of Sterling Oil & Chemical Co., Inc.,. In 1985, Sterling Services and Sterling Oil & Chemical Co., Inc. reorganized their relationship and became sister companies, allowing for smoother applications for permits and certifications, and differentiated business growth.
In 1986, Graham Eddleston worked with engineers from GM to develop and sell a petroleum grease to be used in engine and transmission plants. This grease rectified issues on the assembly lines at GM, holding pins place as the engine and transmission parts were sent down the line.
In the early 1990’s, Sterling Oil & Chemical Co., Inc. entered into an agreement with Esso/Imperial Oil to haul engine oils from Sarnia, ONT to GM engine plants across the Midwest. Sterling was able to secure this business by delivering large loads to the facilities with specialized equipment in a timely, efficient and safe manner.
In the mid 1990’s, Sterling Services, Ltd. was a regional distribution facility for Exxon/Mobil, providing inventory control for automatic transmission fluid (ATF) for GM plants across the Midwest.
In January 2000, Sterling Services, Ltd. acquired three new tanks and implemented them on their south end of the facility for further expansion. Two of these tanks are made out of carbon steels, and the third one is stainless steel.
In the early 2000’s, Sterling Oil & Chemical Co., Inc. expanded the reach of their petroleum business with GM, and began selling to plants Internationally in Canada. Since then, Sterling has sold their petroleum to GM plants across the world, including to Mexico, Poland, France, Korea and China.
2006-2014 Maximization of Assets, Expansion and Added Services
In 2006, Sterling Services, Ltd. began to offer transloading services at its terminal in Hamtramck, MI. Sterling was able to leverage its location and rail spurs to provide transloading services to companies looking to save on their freight costing.
In 2008, Sterling Oil & Chemical Co., Inc. became the contract carrier for Imperial Oil to deliver power steering fluids (PSF) to all of GM’s plants in the United States.
In 2009 and 2012, Sterling Services, Ltd. undertook two expansion projects. These increased the facility total storage capacity by 22 percent, and increased fixed storage tank rental by over 40 percent.
Sterling Services contracted Astrum Solar to install a 20kw solar array in August 2011. Sterling was an early adopter of the Solar Energy movement, and took advantage of a federal grant, and of funds set aside by DTE Energy for third parties to install solar arrays.
In 2012, Sterling Oil & Chemical Co., Inc. launched a “hot shot” sample service for customers of Sterling Services Ltd. This sample service provides quick, efficient transportation for clients samples, delivering these to third-party laboratories in Metro Detroit.
The most recent expansion undertaken by Sterling Services, Ltd. to its Hamtramck terminal occurred in 2014, with the addition of two more tanks. This brought the total to 55 above-ground storage tanks.
2015 Certifications & Course Work
In February 2015, Sterling Oil & Chemical Co., Inc. received a Step Grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) to assist in the marketing, sales and exporting of their petroleum products across the globe.
Sterling Oil & Chemical Co., Inc. and Sterling Services, Ltd. were certified by Wayne County Airport Authority as a Small Business Enterprise (SBE) in April 2015.
Jason Eddleston, son of Graham and Laura, graduated from the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program in June of 2015. This executive-level class allowed him to attend classes taught by professors from Babson College and the Wharton School of Business to enhance his knowledge base and skill sets.
In October 2015, Sterling Services, Ltd. was certified by the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council as a Women’s Business Enterprise (WBE). Additionally, Sterling Services, Ltd. expects to become a certified Women Owned Small Business (WOSB) in the fourth quarter of 2015.
In April 2016, Sterling Services, Ltd., expanded its footprint around its facility in Hamtramck. The company purchased homes around the plant, registered and paid for all the permits to tear down the homes to create a larger perimeter around the facility.
In April 2016, Sterling Oil attended the Inner City Capital Program, a tuition-free executive leadership training program designed by the Intiative for a Competitive Inner City (ICIC) to help business owners in economically-distressed areas build capacity for sustainable growth in revenue, profitability, and employment. They focus on: Capacity-building education, One-on-One Coaching, and Connections to Capital and Capital Powers.
Sterling Services continued its community outreach in May 2016, investing into Hamtramck Disneyland to preserve the historic art installation in Hamtramck, Mich. They partnered with Hatch Art and the city of Hamtramck to receive a grant to continue the preservation of the iconic house on Klinger Street.
2017-2020 Facility Growth and Petrolatum Sales
Sterling Services LTD., launched on Amazon.com in May 2017, selling Sterling’s petrolatum product in pint, quart, five-gallon, and 55-gallon sizes. The ability to sell online gave Sterling Services additional revenue and the possibility of creating new relationships in different markets while building a larger network of clients.
Further into May 2017, Jason Eddleston attended Michigan-China Matchmaking Summit at Cobo Center in Detroit, Mich. Following Sterling Oil’s outreach into Mexico, Canada, and Korean markets, Jason Eddleston – VP of Operations at Sterling Oil – looked to explore the Chinese market in relation to the company’s petrolatum. During this forum, the company was able to meet directly with prospective distributors, agents, and companies to evaluate selling their petrolatum in the Chinese market.
In June 2017, Sterling Services LTD., expanded the South End to include a new loading pad and oil water separator. The project was done to alleviate congestion at the Hamtramck facility and provide a dedicated loading area to load and offload trucks for their customers.
In August 2017, Sterling Services LTD., partnered with the Gallagher Fire in Livonia, Mich., for a fire safety course at the Sterling facility in Hamtramck, Mich. The course helped Sterling enhance their safety protocols and procedures as well as learning how to properly use fire extinguishers. They also ran through a drill of how to properly put fires out.
In March 2018, Sterling Oil was one of six companies to take part in ExporTech 2018, a 10-week program that helps companies accelerate their growth in global markets. The invitation-only program brings 4-8 Detroit businesses together to help develop written strategic plans for export growth. The program also helps them connect with a wide range of experts to catalyze export sales.
In October 2019, after getting approval from the Hamtramck Planning Commission, Sterling Services went in front of the Hamtramck City Council to present their plans for expansion at their facility on Grand Haven and Commor on the west-side of Hamtramck. Jason Eddleston, VP of Operations, presented the plan to City Council on October 22 and was given unanimous approval to move ahead with their expansion plans.
In February 2020, Sterling Oil VP of Operations, Jason Eddleston traveled to Mexico to meet with prospective distributors and agents through the US Gold Key Service program. Following ExporTech in 2018, Sterling Oil identified the Mexico market as the number one priority in expanding their international exports. He met with seven different companies and Sterling Oil was the featured company at the US Commerce Service Booth during Expo Manufactura in Monterrey. They currently have clients in the US, China, Korea, Canada, and Mexico.