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Omerica Organic: Finding success in going green and against the grain

 

Omerica Organic has defied traditional businesses practices more than once, and by going green, and blazing new trails in their industry, their intrepidness has paid off.

What began as a one-man operation in a garage in Palisade, Colorado in 2004, has grown into a 6,000 sq. ft. warehouse in North Denver, at 3360 Walnut St., that is well-equipped with an array of high-tech machinery and a staff of over a dozen. Omerica Organic has dealers in 20 states across the country, international representation in 11 countries and a bustling online retail shop at www.omericaorganic.com.

Omerica Organic’s founder Ryan Lorenz says that, although commercial success is important, following eco-conscious practices, maintaining the human element within his operation and fostering progression is what lies at the heart of his company.

“[Our] direction is quality, efficiency and our staff. We have continual goals, and strive to always become better. Our process is one that a hand plays a major role in the product’s creation. I take pride in that!”

The Omerica Organic warehouse, located in the RiNo District of North Denver, has an unassuming brick facade but inside is a sleek reception area where handcrafted display cases are warmly lit and the faint buzz of machinery is heard coming from the nearby production floor.

Omerica Organic has genuinely embraced and integrated green technology and techniques into its daily operation through operating policies such as recycling wood scraps, using iPads instead of paper for work orders, replacing paper towels with cloth washrags, replanting trees in conjunction with the Nature Conservancy to offset their impact, working with certifiably ethical suppliers in the USA and powering the entire warehouse on purchased wind energy.

“It is very important to tread lightly. Being conscious has allowed us to implement a foundation that is low impact, and sharing this attribute as part of our image, if anything, acts as a reminder to others to try to be as eco-conscious as possible,” said Lorenz.

While Lorenz was happy to promote these parts of the operation, there are other aspects of the business that are closely guarded. The body jewelery industry is very competitive and protecting unique aspects of their brand is crucial said Erin Sim, the Design Lead and Social Media Manager for Omerica Organic.  

“There are people right behind us that have the same technology and are really honing in on how we do things, and so we’ve really tried to keep ahead of the curve.”  

Sim was willing to speak about a few aspects of their manufacturing, including utilizing certain machinery in ways not originally intended.

“We are using high-tech machinery, machines that are used for making car parts. We’ve sort of figured out how to use them with wood, really with the priority of consistency in mind.”   

One of the trademarks of Omerica Organic’s production is their use of laser etching technology, which results in impossibly small details on products that are about the size of a nickel. It’s a defining part of Omerica Organic’s style and an approach that has been pursued by competitors in the past.

“We were the first to use a laser in body jewelry production. We have seen other companies come and go that have also used lasers and have emulated our style, but we really just hit the ground running and haven’t stopped,” said Sim.

Considering there are hundreds of items and designs to choose from, the actual inventory on hand at Omerica Organic is quite small. This is because every product is made per order. Sim says that this helps reduce wasted wood and reaffirms their commitment to product quality and the customer’s needs.

“Typically when you place your order, we grab a block of wood, we turn it, and it goes through the process from there. People are individuals, and getting something that is custom made for you, and to fit your specifications, is really the best option.”

Lorenz says that this ethos of emphasizing the importance of each individual piece was his original muse.   

“What first inspired me was creating something of quality. I don’t believe in a throwaway society. I wanted to make something that when you held it, you knew something was special about that piece.”  

The staff members that transforms these rough blocks of wood into smooth, artfully crafted pieces of body jewelry love their job. Tyson Rasmussen, who is a product finisher, says he enjoys the familial bond he has with his small group of co-workers.

“It feels less like work and it feels a lot like hanging out with your friends all day and doing cool stuff in the meantime.”

Zach Yuskanich, who is also a product finisher, says this type of work is an ideal suit for him.

“I can’t work at a desk. I have too much A.D.D. I think. I like to work with my hands.”

Lorenz said the fun work atmosphere and closeness found within his “OO Crew” developed mostly on its own.

“We have just evolved in a way that is natural and comfortable. The environment was created with one question in mind: ‘What type of work environment would I want to work in?’”

Justin Sim, Omerica Organic’s General Manager, long-time friend of Lorenz and husband to Erin Sim, said that Omerica Organic’s eco-conscious outlook actually stems from its employees lifestyles.

“It’s something that we all practice in our own lives as well as then carrying that over, and incorporating that into the business aspect of everything.”

A mixed-media approach of incorporating metal casting into their wooden products is the newest area of expansion for Omerica Organic. It’s an endeavor that is in keeping with their continual self-challenging manner.

“We’re sort of self taught. We bought the machinery, taught ourselves how to use it, stumbled through the process, but we have really figured out quite a bit,” Sim continued, “I would say that’s the future. Continuing to challenge ourselves is the plan.”

Much like the company itself, Omerica Organic’s green approach to its daily operations is a fluid process that constantly adapts and is always looking for new directions to explore.

“I think it’s important, not only to start thinking that way, but just start small and work toward that. It’s an ever-evolving type of system we have here,” said Justin Sim.

There is a keen structure at Omerica Organic that is based on the Lorenz’s decisions, which comes from closely analyzed data, deliberate choices and strategic implementation of plans. But there is also a tangible feel of community within the warehouse and a noticeable sparkle of enthusiasm in the eye of everyone that works there. They are proud of their job and the product they represent.

Lorenz has put eco-friendly practices and innovation at the center of Omerica Organic’s operating model, and it’s starting to look like the company has many following its lead.

“I believe we can write our own story and there are infinite ways of achieving one’s goals. The continuing challenge of business keeps me inspired. As long as you don’t get lazy and want to always evolve forward, you have plenty to keep busy with.”

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I am a multimedia journalist, traveling and searching for new insights into the the human condition and sharing the stories of the people I meet along the journey.

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