Employees: 30 +
Industry: Built Environment
Products: Window Wells, Grates & Ladders
Vaugh Cook’s housing manufacturer rides a domestic boom to strong growth and diversification
In 1999, Vaughn Cook was building a new home. When the time came to pick out his window wells, he was frustrated by the lack of options. They were generic and looked like they could be placed in a dungeon as easily as they could be placed in his home.
“I knew there had to be something better out there. So, I looked, and when I could not find anything, I knew I had to make it myself,” Cook says.
Cook had worked for years with fiberglass and understood its strength and ability to be easily molded. He went to work in his garage, exploring options for his own window wells. He came up with a mold and a design he really liked – and so did his neighbors and their friends. The more people that saw them wanted them. Five years later, Cook was able to start Rockwell, Inc., a manufacturer of window wells, grates, and ladders.
The company moved from Cook’s garage to Main Street in Provo, Utah and keeps moving to larger facilities. “Today we’re in a 15,000 square feet facility. But we’re quickly outgrowing this facility as well, and I expect us to move again sooner rather than later,” says Ryan Thornock, Regional Sales Manager.
Rockwell sources its fiberglass from Composites One in Illinois. “It’s a high quality, American-made product,” Thornock says. “It’s easily molded, light weight and very strong.”
Rockwell’s window wells are sold throughout the United States and Canada through a team of 150-200 distributors. This large sales force necessitates the need for Rockwell to keep its product standard and fairly simple.
“We cannot have hundreds of styles, makes and models,” Thornock says. “Our current design meets the egress code requirements we find throughout the country. They have to be wide enough for a fireman to get into them. They must allow people to get out in the case of a fire. They have to be something our distributors are proud to sell and our home builders are proud to use. We do not make custom products. Our success is based on repetition: making the same high quality product that works all over the United States and Canada.”
Challenges: The housing market. Rockwell started in 2004 in the midst of a housing boom. Within three years, Rockwell faced selling a product in the midst of the housing crisis. “It was not a fun time,” Cook says. “We had to keep afloat. But it gave us a chance to look at how to manage labor and materials efficiently. We had to return to the basics.”
Opportunities: Strong economy. “This steady growth has given us an opportunity to be innovative. We have the ability now to look around and see what other niche markets we can serve. We had to introduce a new product in an existing space. But we’ve established ourselves in this space by being unique and different. We’re excited to see where we can go now,” Thornock says.
Needs: Labor. The entire housing market is feeling the pain of a labor shortage. “It’s a ripple effect,” Thornock says. “It has stymied the housing market. It slows down the contractors, the homebuilders, the distributors. We all feel it.”