Our grandfather Adem Aktas started his career as an accountant at big firms of his time. Being the entrepreneur he is (even started a barber shop but that story is for another time :) ), he started his own accounting firm, Ak-Is Accounting, in 1957 and worked there at nights while holding his daytime job. After a while, the accounting firm started taking more of his time. He finally resigned and committed himself to his business. And Ak-Is Accounting would be in business until the early 90's and later would be closed to focus mainly on the tin business.
One of his clients, Munir Akkoyun, was a can making technician who started his own business in 1964 after working for other companies. Munir had clients but not the capital to grow the business. So a few years and several discussions later, Adem took out a loan from the bank and partnered up with Munir. This is how we got into the tin business as Amir Can Industry in 1968 in Eminonu district of Istanbul which was the metal packaging capital of Turkey at the time. The name Amir was a combination of both of their names and also meant chief in Turkish.
Adem Aktas, his brother-in-law Arif Sunar and accounting staff, 1962
AMIR CAN INDUSTRY
Amir had about 15 employees, one production line and was working out of a small 1500 sq ft (150 sq mt) shop placed on the basement floor of an office building. Being in the basement, when they received raw material, all the workers would line up from the entrance of the building through the stairs to the shop and carry by passing it from one person to another.
The single production line consisted of a few simple machines and and with this basic line, we were producing tins for a wide range of products like paint, putty and baby formula. After production, the tins would be placed in wooden crates. Some of the streets in the area were so narrow that deliveries to those streets had to be made on horse carts as the trucks couldn't fit in. We were tight on cash so we got weekly payments on every Friday.
After the first year of Amir, CBS Paint Company, one of the biggest paint companies at the time, was taken on as a client. This was a very big step for Amir. CBS would be our biggest client for many years to come.
After a while, disagreements started between the two partners. And in 1978, Munir sold his shares to Adem and he and his son who was also an employee left the company. He opened a shop nearby, bought new machines and continued. From what we have heard, after he passed away, his son rented out the shop for a while and later on sold all the machinery and got out of business.
Ak-Is office, 1973
Adem Aktas and his business partner Munir Akkoyun, 1974
Newspaper ad, 1970
TEKSAN CAN INDUSTRY
Adem had envisioned a tin can co-op of small to medium-sized manufacturers. Together, they would purchase raw material, set up a printing line, distribute their workload to increase efficiency and even buy land to build factories. Some of his friends in the business became a part of this and that's how the foundation of Teksan started to be laid down in 1975 with the founding of Teksankop Istanbul Tin, Tin Can and Packaging Co-op.
This was a very big deal in the business and the first project undertaken was the government-owned tea company, Çaykur's bidding. The quantity was high, the prices were low and the conditions were tough as the price would be locked in no matter what.
The bid was won and the co-op members had a change of heart. They backed out. The penalty would be high. So Adem and one other member of the co-op, Saban Silan, founded Teksan in 1976 to manufacture the tins. As luck would have it, the raw material price skyrocketed before the production even started. Saban and the manager of the co-op had a meeting with the raw material company to get help for the prices. They had an accident on the way back and passed away. This was a very rough start.
The cost increase in raw material turned the project into a big loss for us. This was by far the hardest economical time for our family. Everyone in our immediate and extended family worked on the manufacturing floor to help us finish the project.
Milli Ekonomi ve Ziraat Magazine Cover, 1972
Teksan stopped its operations for a few years and Amir moved into Teksan's premises. Our team was strong but we needed some time to get over what had just happened. Adem's younger brother who was a technical school teacher, retired and joined the company in early 80's. Also, Adem's nephew who was a 19-year-old high school graduate had joined a few years prior to that. He would gain experience for a while and would become the production manager.
In 1982, Adem had a heart attack. Luckily he survived and he would turn his responsibilities to his two older kids, Ilhan and Tulhan who were already working in the company for many years. He wanted to see that they could be on their own.
Ilhan Aktas and Ilker Aktas, Istanbul Tuyap Fair, 1987
Tulhan was handling finance and accounting and Ilhan was working on sales and manufacturing. 1987 was a big year. Our first printing line was purchased. New staff has joined the company and a new building was rented which was on the Asian side of Istanbul. In the span of 5 years, all of the production would be moved to this new building. Finally, the offices were also moved with the closing of the accounting firm. Their baby sister Nilhan also joined the company after working for the Social Security Administration for 10 years.
Things were good. Business was booming and our capacity was increasing. We were printing for other tin manufacturers too and Ilhan was really enjoying this side of the business. To keep up with the demand a new coating line and a new printing line were purchased in the late 90's. Good times lasted for another few years and in 2001 a financial crisis hit Turkey. Right about this time, one of our biggest clients got into financial troubles and also plastics started taking a big chunk of the tin business. A lot of money was lost. The next few years would be really tough as the business was also slowing down and the competition was getting fierce.
Nilhan Aktas, Ilhan Aktas and Tulhan Atilgan (Aktas), 1968
Ilhan had two children. I, Gokhan, joined the company in August 2005 after working as a sales manager abroad. I moved back to Istanbul on a Saturday and started working on the following Monday. And my sister Zeynep, a fresh System's Engineering grad, started a year after. She was focusing more on printing and designs, while I was trying to increase sales and mainly focusing on the European market. It took one full year to land the first export job which was to Romania. And then one after another kept coming. It was slow but promising. However, things came to a halt when the mortgage crisis hit in late 2008.
It took a few years and a lot of hard work to make things turn around. We also knew that the global economy was changing for good and it wasn't going to be stable anymore. Withstanding financial crises was more important than high growth. We made that a goal.
Today, we have a wide variety of clients of all sizes. We send our products to more than 30 countries worldwide. We produce tins that win local and international awards. We build some of our own machinery. Some things still make us struggle at times but we like a good challenge and we learn from it.
Zeynep and Gokhan, 1985
50 years ago our grandfather Adem got into this business. Almost all of our family worked in it and even today all of the second and third generations work together. We still have staff who has worked with all of our family and family is where we draw our strength from.
All these years led us to a place where we offer small business flexibility, family ethics and 50 years of experience. That is what makes us different and that is why our clients join us.
Next in line is my daughter Elif, a two-year-old whose favorite toy was a tin with a coin inside for a long time. It must be in her genes.
This is the story of how tins have become a family tradition for us. And thank you for reading it.