NK30

Breaking Ground for Bigger Things

By Sandy Klein

It’s Grow Time: New Office, New Partnerships and Lasting Ties

“… NK was exposing ourselves to winds of change and had opened our minds and arms to it.”
randy vanderlaan vancouver

The formation of NK Canada and more organic growth stateside

Northward & Upward

The late 1990’s through 2000’s showed fast expansion for NK with client growth and the formation of a new company, NK Canada – a partnership with one of Gordon Food Service Canada’s past employees, Randy Vanderlaan. Randy was an NK client first with Gordon then Maple Leaf Foodservice, and in 2000 became the face of NK Canada. This was a time when NK was enjoying organic growth stateside from our strong reputation in foodservice and packaging – including onboarding a hardgoods company in Kentucky and foodservice groups in Virginia, Arizona, Illinois and California. Meanwhile, Randy was busy in Canada opening up accounts across the country – in Quebec, Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta.
michelle
“Having a dozen or so people come to our home every day was beginning to impact our growing family.”

Maybe It’s Time For Our Own Place …

We were managing all of this business expansion while still working out of NK’s home office in our converted basement + drive-under garage. Having a dozen or so people come to our home every day was beginning to impact our growing family. In a good way! Our two daughters saw firsthand what it took to run a business. They would wash employees’ cars, bake cookies and give their honest opinions on our designs. They also began exhibiting some angst with “the basement people” who were in our home till all hours of the night meeting deadlines. It was also tough for me emotionally to balance a growing family’s needs and a growing business in the same location – everyone demanding attention to varying degrees.

Building Our NK Home

“… NK was exposing ourselves to winds of change and had opened our minds and arms to it.”
In 2002, NK broke ground and moved into the new building we designed to house and handle a growing company. NK Properties was formed to manage the finances and property of Newhall Klein. We knew this was a period of time when NK was exposing ourselves to winds of change and had opened our minds and arms to it. We lost several employees who had enjoyed “coming to a friend’s house every day” as we transitioned into a brick-and-mortar company – and soon found many more who were happy to grow with us.

Charting a Course for Change

And then, six months after moving into our new, beautiful building, our largest client hired new folks who in turn brought with them their own agency. Rather than curl up in a corner and hide (which is what I wanted desperately to do), I faced that wind, adjusted our sails and headed off in a new direction. With our growing reputation across North America in food and food service, we managed to open several new accounts and continue to grow!
“...I faced that wind, adjusted our sails and headed off in a new direction.”
fotm
“... we were awarded a grant for marketing and branding a Hispanic blueberry farmer cooperative.”

Rewarded for Resilience

The following decade was monumental for NK, such as in 2010 when we were awarded a grant for marketing and branding a Hispanic blueberry farmer cooperative. During this phase we made some much-needed improvements to NK’s infrastructure – simple but important things like a back-up generator, new ergonomic chairs for our employees, new paint. We were producing labels for consumers as well as private label customers, and seeing an influx of business in the digital arena – where we already had a strong base from which to grow. We hired our first sales person who was to become my future partner at NK.
nk fun day
“… the positive support we give one another goes far in working as a tightly knit team.”

Strong Culture at the Core

Through all of this, one of the things that is and was very important to me is our NK culture. I look at our employees as family – sometimes to a fault – and yet the positive support we give one another goes far in working as a tightly knit team. Through the years we continue to improve upon our benefits and our times together, whether it’s a quick birthday celebration, a planned “NK Mystery Day” outing or even an overnight conference where we ideate and grow from one another.
Tyler and SandyTyler and Sandy

A Handshake
to Our Future

In 2015, we had grown to the extent that I offered a partnership equity stake in NK to Tyler Smith, who has now become the new face of NK and will eventually be at the helm of our ship as we continue to chart new opportunities with our clients’ growth in mind.