D&WC: Please give a detailed description of your company and its history.
Deborah Halvorson: Rainbow Woods was founded in 1990. Just prior to that, my husband Richard held a middle-management position manufacturing products for an advertising specialty company. Some of the products produced included awards such as the Grammy and Emmy awards. Richard's specialized training included programming a million-dollar CNC router to cut solid wood, plastic and metal parts. After working six months for this company, he discovered he was training two employees to run this machine who happened to be related to the owner. Six months later, when they were all trained, Rick was fired.
While searching for suitable work, Richard did everything from making cedar chests and benches for craft shows at our two sons' schools to working on boats in a fiberglass company.
We had built a new home and I had vertical blinds installed on a patio door. Rick made a cornice with fabric for the door and another one out of wood for the bedroom. I took photos of the wood cornice to a Sears store to purchase window treatments to go under it. The manager of the store's shop-at-home service saw the photos and in no time we were manufacturing wood cornices in our garage and selling them to Sears stores in Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin.
So it was quite by circumstance that Richard and I, after 22 years of marriage, decided to start our own business. Richard had always worked a lot of overtime in the past, so I was looking forward to us seeing each other more. Boy, do we see each other a lot now!
Today, five moves later, we have a 19,000-square-foot facility and 10 employees. We are located in the southwestern part of Minnesota in the river valley 120 miles from our home towns.
D&WC: What window coverings products did you handle initially? What products do you handle today?
Halvorson: In 1990 we had six styles of cornices. Today we have more than 30 styles of hardwood cornices available in oak, cherry and white hardwood. Some are upholstered, wallpapered or embossed, others are hand-carved. All of them feature the quality of fine furniture, which we developed while manufacturing a line of solid, hardwood furniture. With the custom stains, paints and faux finishes we offer the possibilities are endless for any decorator. Any style including country, eclectic, traditional, Victorian or contemporary can be created to fit the needs of every home owner, and we are continually adding new designs. Last fall we added six new styles and two more embossed styles were added this spring.
D&WC: Who are your customers? What parts of the country do you service?
Halvorson: When I first started selling the cornices, I got out my Minnesota map and drove to different locations, spied out the local decorating shops, chose my favorite one in the town and sold my Cornice Kit to them. The product was so unique, and the quality was unsurpassed, so selling the samples to designers was easy. But it was a slow process.
In 1997 Sears agreed to sell our product nationwide. So we have slowly released it to different Sears districts throughout the nation. With Sears' recommendation, we started exhibiting at the window coverings industry's trade shows and met our first distributor, Warren Shade out of Minneapolis. Today we have other distributors including Beauti Vue Products, Bristol, WI; R & M CoCo Designs, Cape Giraradeau, MO; Tentina Window Fashions, Lindenhurst, NY; Mill Supply, Hamden, CT; Onthank, Des Moines IA; Hilson, St Louis MO; and Mid America, Omaha, NE.
D&WC: How has your segment of the industry changed since you first began?
Halvorson: Over the past 10 years we have changed from window cornices to high-quality solid hardwood furniture and back to cornices. The poor profit in furniture made us look at the bottom line and decide to move the company back to cornices.
We have created the highest quality product from select solid hardwoods. Our product meets the needs of the price-conscience shopper to middle-class home owners and all the way up to our high-end designers-particularly with our hand-carved, solid cherry and oak cornices.
Rainbow Woods also had to become computerized once we started selling nationwide to Sears. Computerization also has aided the rest of the company's sales, marketing and manufacturing processes.
D&WC: What are some of the key factors involved in your growth and success?
Halvorson: Service, service, service. That is the key. Because we are a small company, we offer personal attention to details and to the needs of the designers in the market today. We even answer the telephone with a real person during business hours!
No matter how large we grow, both Richard and I agree service and quality will always be our No. 1 commitment. We have a unique product, the know-how to produce it and the manufacturing space in rural Minnesota to keep costs down. We have the perfect setting in a hard working farming community to draw employees who are committed to quality and excellence in producing the cornice line we have developed.
D&WC: What best describes your niche in the marketplace?
Halvorson: No other company offers real wood cornices in more than 30 styles like Rainbow Woods. Backed by excellent customer service and a four week or less turnaround on most styles, we aim to please.
D&WC: Do you offer any products other than window coverings?
Halvorson: We currently are seeking another product line to manufacture. We have not determined if it will be wood blinds, porch shades or shutters. But someday soon there will be another product produced at Rainbow Woods.
Our goal is to introduce our products to other distributors in the nation, as you may be able to tell we are mainly in the Midwest and Eastern parts of the United States. We have yet to tap the market in the West.