By Margaret Jackson | Jun 22, 2015
Windows and Doors
Founded: 1986 (legally incorporated in 2012)
Begin recognized the quality of the product Alpen was producing, but he also saw the company as perpetually under-capitalized and thought he could take it to the next level.
"I'm very passionate about the product as having a unique competitive advantage," says Begin.
Alpen’s fiberglass windows and doors use advanced, customized suspended coated film glazing that make their performance equal to or greater than the performance of triple- and quad-pane windows. The company works with a variety of customers on projects ranging from single-family houses to commercial buildings of all kinds. Its products help designers and planners achieve the standards required by most high-performance building certification programs, including Net Zero Energy, Passive House, LEED and Living Building Challenge.
In addition to its headquarters in Niwot, Alpen opened a showroom in New York City in April 2015, where it has provided its energy-efficient windows to iconic buildings such as the Natural Resource Defense Council, the New York Stock Exchange on Wall Street, and the Empire State Building, where it retrofitted all of the 6,514 double-pane glass windows with its advanced suspended glazing technology.
In 2006, Begin sold the company to a venture capital firm that was acquiring industry-leading businesses that were producing energy-efficient, sustainable products. "They were well-capitalized and had a clear vision," he says. "We were excited to be part of their vision for the future."
However, because the VC firm launched in 2007 at the start of the construction recession, the timing was poor. "Our product grew, but not all of the building products were successful," Begin says. "I bought it back because after getting involved initially, the product had continued to grow, and there was a great core group of people."
Alpen was among the 50 winners of the Colorado Companies to Watch award, which recognizes growing companies that fuel the economic engine of the state. The project was launched in 2009 by the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade in conjunction with the Edward Lowe Foundation.
Challenges: The rapid expansion of the company -- sales were up 40 percent last year -- has forced it to relocate twice since Begin originally bought it in 2006. "The real estate market is very challenging for a user of industrial space, and I can already see us being cramped," Begin says. "Marijuana has created upward mobility on rental rates and created real challenges for finding ideal space for expanding manufacturing."
Begin was looking for what he describes as the "worst house in the best neighborhood" so the company could transform it into a model of what can be done with existing buildings. "We couldn’t find that worst house in the best neighborhood because the cannabis industry has been grabbing them," he says.
Opportunities: The increasing trend toward energy efficiency is probably Alpen’s biggest opportunity. "We’re sitting on the ground-level explosion of demand for higher-performance products," Begin says. "The market is accelerating."
Needs: Alpen needs more manufacturing space to accommodate a subsidiary that is expected to be announced soon. Begin also would like to have easier access to capital to support the company’s growth. "We’re always trying to raise capital," Begin says. "And, as with every small- and medium-sized manufacturer, we’re all challenged by just having enough hours in the day."