ADDRESS: 3266 West Hills Rd, Unit D, Philomath, OR
OWNER: Ken Haines
YEARS IN BUSINESS: In Oregon since 1999, founded in 1986
NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES: 8
WHAT THEY SELL: Color Wheels, Pocket Color Wheels, Creative Color Wheels, and more
WHY SHOULD YOU GO: Color Wheels are for anyone who wants to learn how colors relate to each other – whether you’re an artist, interior designer, gardener, adult, or child.
Located on West Hills Road in an area surrounded by fields and trees, The Color Wheel Company is one of a handful of manufacturing businesses in our area. Owner Ken Haines is a down-to-earth and realistic fellow, and he’s a joy to talk to. He truly cares for his employees and shares a trusting and positive relationship with them. Though they don’t have a storefront, the folks at The Color Wheel Company are creating products that are sold at hundreds of stores all over the country.
Ken, tell us about the Color Wheel Company. Where did the idea come from? I was working in Dallas, Oregon, as a middle school special education teacher. In 1995 my father called me and asked if I would be interested in taking a year’s leave of absence and learning about The Color Wheel Company. Four years later, I bought the company from him and moved it up here. In 1999, we moved into and operated from a facility we rented, and in 2001 we had this facility built.
What does your company sell? We’re a small manufacturing company that produces Color Wheels. A Color Wheel is a device for teaching people how to mix and use colors for everything involving color. It is a reference for color relationships and mixing of primary, secondary, and tertiary colors. We also make a Pocket Color Wheel, which is the same as our regular Color Wheel except smaller, and a Creative Color Wheel, which is a more in-depth color wheel. The Color Wheel and Pocket Color Wheel make up about 85% of our profits. [Color Wheel is sold at The Drawing Board and Mona Lisa’s, both locally owned, independent stores. It is also available at Fred Meyer, Michael’s, Joann’s, and Bi-Mart.]
What does being featured as the Local Business of the Week mean to you? It’s good to be recognized as a local business in Corvallis. It’s my understanding that the Business of the Week program aims to increase popularity of local businesses so people buy local rather than going to a chain. We’re a manufacturing company, and we really don’t have a storefront; our products are sold in various stores locally and nationally. I’m glad to be a part of the Corvallis Independent Business Alliance (CIBA) because we’re all helping to create a friendly and sustainable environment for local businesses in Corvallis.
Do you fill an unusual niche? What does your business do better than anyone else? We’re one of a kind in that nobody else does what we do. We sort of have a monopoly in our field, because we’re too small to be undercut by other manufacturers, and large enough to keep people employed here. We have a good relationship with the people in the arts and school community, and we produce a quality product, allowing us to stay in business.
What challenges have you faced as an independent local business owner? In fine arts, there are materials that need replenishing after they are used a few times: brushes, paints, pastels, other utensils. The Color Wheel is a static tool – once you have one, you don’t need another one. Because of this, we don’t have much competition, although we also don’t have enormous profits. One big concern I have is that as soon as the large retail stores we sell at can find a cheaper way to make these out of the U.S., they’re going to cut us out. I personally might be fine if that happens, but who else will employ my workers if this business goes under? In this economy, work is hard to come by even for well-educated college graduates. Most of my workers are blue-collar folks, and there just aren’t that many blue-collar jobs.
What do you enjoy most about owning a local, independent business in Corvallis? We self-select our hours, so that’s good. I enjoy working with such a great group of people, and we share a high level of employee-employer trust.
How many people do you employ? Do you think your employees are better off working for a local independent rather than a chain? Why? I have seven production workers, and one bookkeeper/shop manager. Four of my workers are handicapped adults employed here through Cornerstone Industries. Cornerstone puts handicapped adults to work in normal settings, so it’s a great thing. The handicapped workers work from 9:30 am to 1:30 pm, and my other employees work a normal work schedule, usually 9 to 4. My workers can adjust their schedules as they see fit. This allows people to make and keep appointments and to adjust their schedules to adapt to other things that come up. They have access to the shop and can work a schedule that fits their needs.
Is all of your production done right here in this building? The wheels are printed in Oregon and assembled in Corvallis. We purchase our cardboard boxes and other supplies from Oregon vendors or vendors in the U.S., when possible. We contract the plastic bags through a company in the U.S., but that is the only product that is not manufactured in the U.S.
I believe that if we provide jobs in the U.S., it allows people in the U.S. to spend the money on products produced here. It makes no sense to me to produce products overseas. If the employment and production is local, then people in the U.S. will have more money to spend locally.
(Interview and article by Bryce Benson– December 29, 2013)
The Local Business of the Week program is designed to help the Corvallis community identify our locally owned independent businesses by featuring one business each week. The program is part of the Buy Local First campaign co-sponsored by the Corvallis Sustainability Coalition and the Community Independent Business Alliance (CIBA).