Business Spotlight: California Closets
California Closets provides custom closets, organizers and home storage systems for any room in your home. It's a brand that general manager Jennifer Van Teeling is proud to be associated with.
"I loved that it was a recognizable brand with local ties," she says of her decision to join the company. "The Alberta business is locally owned and operated, and most of our products are sourced in Calgary, in Alberta, or in Canada. There was so much opportunity and there still is. The business has grown so much in the nearly 15 years I have been a part of it. Even back then I could see the possibilities. It started off as a small business with a handful of employees, and a small shop with under $500,000 in sales. We have grown to over 40 employees, a large manufacturing center local in Alberta, as well as over $6.5 million in sales — but it has retained the family business feel."
Van Teeling continues, "Back then I thought the products were such an ingenious idea. Who doesn't love to be organized? California Closets provided the tools to do that. When I look back, the product was so much more simplified to what we offer now, and it just keeps getting better and more innovative every year."
She credits the team as part of the company's great success. "Our people are the heart of the business. Early on we were very careful to build a culture that cares about our customers and our employees. We bring on people that take pride in going the extra mile to ensure that our customers have an awesome experience. We want to make it as easy to work with us as possible. Our product also differentiates us. We work hard to innovate and stay on top of trends, not just locally but internationally by attending trade shows around the world to ensure that our customers get the best of the best. Ultimately, our vision is a world where people are free to focus on what matters most. I think this comes through in all of our customer interactions in a genuine way."
As with any long-running business, change is a constant factor for Van Teeling and her team.
"We reminisce about how much we have advanced our technology in a relatively short number of years," she muses. "Back in 2005 we hand drew all of our designs on graph paper, we hand priced all of our jobs on site, and used little plastic cards with pictures on them to demonstrate the design for our customers. I would never go back to those days! Although we learned a lot back then, our CAD program, iPad app, and laser measurers really have advanced us and made us so much more efficient and accurate when planning out our designs with our clients. It allows us to make changes with our customers at lightning speed to help them really customize their designs to their taste, on the spot, with great efficiency."
For Van Teeling, the best part of the day is working with and delighting customers. She notes, "They are always so excited to have us in their homes! They have usually been dreaming about their projects for some time and to see it come to realization is an exciting part of the process. We always leave with smiles on our faces, because seeing something that someone has dreamed about come to reality is a very special thing. We are privileged to be a part of that process."
Managing the operations through the ups and downs of the Alberta economy takes vision and foresight, which Van Teeling leverages on a daily basis. "We learned a lot from watching our American counterparts go through the recession in 2008," she says. "We learned that we had to be nimble, to watch spending on even the small things, keep an eye on the bottom line, and hire people that care. When our team is 'in this together' then they treat the business like their own. This way we can invest smartly and be ready for both growth or recession. We have continued to invest in our people and our marketing, so that as we are now growing, we are ready for the different challenges that growth can bring."
Challenges aside, she loves working in Calgary, and for a very good reason.
"The way the community of Calgary sticks together," she quotes about what she loves about the city. "Nothing showed this more than the flood in 2013. Our showroom sits a few blocks away from both the Bow and the Elbow Rivers. It was like we were on a little island where the flood waters came up in both directions. We were fortunate that they did not reach us, but many of our neighbours in Inglewood were not so fortunate. It was amazing to see the business community pull together to support one another and to support the surrounding residential communities. There is something special about a city that looks out for one another. It's like a small town mentality in a metropolitan city. That is something pretty special."
She continues, "Calgary is a hub of innovation and creativity. We are steps away from some amazing home grown businesses, amazing architecture, art, and food. We are constantly inspired by our surrounding topography and nature as well. Customers want to tailor their designs to encompass the outside, inside, and use modern, contemporary design to reflect the unique architecture of our city centre development. We are always looking for creative ideas to reflect our customers taste, but we never have to look far in Calgary."
Van Teeling and her team are passionate about giving back to the community. She explains, "We created a California Closets Cares mandate as a part of our short and long-term goals for the company. Recently we have provided closet systems for Dress for Success in Calgary. We also contributed to the Straz House renovation for Ryan Straschnitzki and his family and participated in the Seniors Secret Service initiative this past year. We have raised money for the Alzheimer Society and given gifts at Christmas to various charities. We have collected sports equipment for Comrie's Sport Equipment Bank, and boots and coats for the Women In Need Society. We are excited to work with more groups this year, as we have been brainstorming with our entire team as to what to tackle next."
Fans of the brand have a lot to look forward to.
"We have a partnership that we will be sharing with the public in the fall that we are extremely excited about. We also have a new product line coming out soon that will revolutionize our transitional modern offering and take our product to the next level," Van Teeling hints. Also, "Our Tuscan Moon finish has just exploded this year. It is a lovely light finish with a deep textured wood grain. People have been leaning more towards light finishes, and tonnes of lighting. Our offering has really expanded with so many ways to illuminate our cabinetry and the items that mean the most to our clients. Everything is light and airy with low-iron crystal-clear glass and reflective surfaces creating accents in a subtle way."
There is also a new line in the brand that Van Telling loves. "We launched a new line of closet accessories this year called California Closets Essentials, which can be ordered directly online by anyone. It includes bins, boxes, jewelry boxes, smart storage, hangers, and so much more. It is like the icing on the cake to assist with making your storage items look so much better. My favourite of the collection is the smart watch storage for my Apple Watch. I can store all of my watch bands as well as charge my watch at the same time."
California Closets is how homeowners can get and stay organized while adding incredible style and value to their homes. Learn more at californiaclosets.ca/en/location/calgary/ online or @californiaclosetsalberta on Instagram and Facebook.