Site icon West Virginia Small Business Development Center

From Basement to Outer Space: Touchstone Research Laboratory Models Business Success

Like many of the world’s most successful companies, Touchstone Research Laboratory has humble beginnings. With nothing more than $100, a busted electron microscope and a vision, Brian Joseph started Touchstone in 1980 in the basement of a monastery. Today, Touchstone specializes in research and development, failure analysis and testing and develops innovative technologies that are fueling advancements in the aerospace industry.

But success didn’t come overnight. Eventually, Touchstone outgrew the monastery basement and Joseph moved the company into its own facility in Wheeling. The company grew for the next 15 years and by the turn of the century started developing its own technologies.

“We’ve been able to pull off building a research laboratory and found a business model that lets us invent new things and get them to market,” Joseph said.

Over the years, Touchstone has had help from the West Virginia Small Business Development Center, the West Virginia Manufacturing Extension Partnership and the Robert C. Byrd Institute, as well as colleges and universities.

“We owe a lot to these organizations,” Joseph said. “They have a way of finding you and putting their arms around you and helping you find success,” Joseph said.

Touchstone, located in Triadelphia off Interstate 70 in Ohio County, might be creating space-faring tech, but their down-to-earth, can-do work ethic is what impresses Mary Hott, a business coach for the WV SBDC and the Innovation-Technology Program manager.

“The people at Touchstone are amazing,” she said. “When you look at all the good work they’re doing, you can see the true grit that makes West Virginians such great workers and innovators.”

Touchstone has developed several technologies, including:

Touchstone has branched off into stand-alone companies, such as Touchstone Testing Laboratory, Touchstone Advanced Composites and CFOAM. The businesses employ about 100 people.

While Touchstone has grown thanks to help from the Small Business Innovation Research program, a federal program that helps fund the development of next generation technologies, Joseph says having a business coach has been invaluable.

“It is wonderful having a business coach,” he said. “I think many entrepreneurs think they know everything, but we don’t. And that’s where a business coach really makes a difference.”

Hott says some companies are great at developing a product but don’t have a background or knowledge for marketing or commercializing their technology.

“The WV SBDC is an invaluable resource,” she said. “We have no-cost business coaching for any company that needs it.”

Joseph says the WV SBDC Innovation-Technology Program has helped Touchstone out and recommends businesses to take advantage of coaching opportunities and other resources.

To learn more about Touchstone, To learn more about WV SBDC programs or to contact a business coach, visit

Exit mobile version