(Left: Calvin Mann designed VocalBooth to provide musicians and others to have a soundproof recording studio at their home or office | Photo courtesy of VocalBooth. Right: Justin Brown created Rhino Skin Solutions for rock climbers and other athletes, as well as Hi-4 Dog Care, a line of dog care products | Photos by Kristine Thomas)
What do rockstars, rock climbers and rocket designers all have in common? They can find the products they need to achieve their individual goals in Redmond.
VocalBooth, Rhino Skin Care and i3DMFG were the featured companies at the ninth annual Made in Redmond virtual tour October 1, hosted by Redmond Economic Development Inc., or REDI. More than 75 people attended the event at the High Desert Music Hall, where they learned about how three entrepreneurs turned their passions into successful companies.
REDI Senior Director Jon Stark told the audience that Redmond is leading the State of Oregon in manufacturing growth, with employment up 28 percent in the last year. Manufacturing growth in Redmond is four times the average in Oregon and ten times in the United States.
Here’s a look at the three innovative companies based in Redmond.
i3DMFG CEO Erin Stone often can’t talk about the projects happening in her Redmond manufacturing plant. It was only recently she could share i3DMFG-made engine parts for the rocket recently launched by Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos. “It was very secret, and they didn’t want anyone to know they were going to use additives,” she shared.
Stone explained additives refers to taking fine layers or materials and layer by layer building up and adding materials to create something. The advantage of using this 3D technology is her company can create metal parts or products that cannot be made using traditional machining methods. “We have a lot more options in what we can produce using this technology,” she said.
Founded in 2013, Stone said her first clients were Blue Origin in Redmond, Washington, and Delta P in Eugene, Oregon. Delta P holds seven patents on specific defense parts. Her company also has made high-end titanium bicycles.
The nine 3D machines operate 24/7, manufacturing metal parts taking anywhere from a few hours to several days. Stone said traditional metal manufacturing would require creating several pieces to eventually assembling the parts to make into one final piece. With 3D metal manufacturing, her company can create one final piece at one time.
When she began her company, she didn’t envision it making spacecraft parts right away. “I literally didn’t expect to be making things that I saw when I was a kid watching Star Wars or the Millennium Falcon — literally, those thrusters that blow out of the back of the spacecrafts, that’s the kind of stuff we do,” she said.
Stone said she’s always had a huge respect for the U.S. Military, but she never expected to be a part to “being a solution to our culture’s safety,” and making sure military men and women can return safely home to their families. “Our passion as a company is we are part of something bigger and we are an integral part of that,” she said. “People come to us with really difficult projects, and we help find the pathways to help them be trailblazers to doing something really amazing.”
With a background in economic development, Stone said she started her business with the mission to create family-wage jobs that would allow one parent to work and one parent to stay home while still being able to afford a home and more. She currently employees 14 people, with the goal to hire six more in the next few months.
Stone added that her passion is to do groundbreaking work that pays good wages and makes a difference in her community and beyond.
In 1997, Calvin Mann needed to build a soundproof booth in his rental duplex without upsetting his landlord by creating a permanent structure.
The singer songwriter required a place to make professional recordings, since there was not a state-of-the-art recording studio in Central Oregon. “The challenge was making my own recording studio that I could easily assemble and then take apart when I moved,” he said. “I built a second one I used as a drum room. Realizing there was a need for modular sound rooms, I learned how to design a website, put a few examples of the sizes I could do along with the prices and someone bought the first one.”
Since its beginning almost 25 years ago, VocalBooth’s products are used by clients nationally and internationally, including Lady Gaga, Mariah Carey, Donny Osmond, Nick Lachey and House of Blues studio.
Based in Redmond, Mann said his company sells three levels of sound isolation in four different series, also saying his company manufactures vocal booths and sound isolation enclosures for scientific and product testing and more. “We are seeing the booths being used in different ways from companies using them to interview candidates at job fairs to testing iPhones to rock stars like Lady Gaga and Madonna using them for recordings.”
The booths arrive in boxes and can be assembled by two people in less than an hour for the smallest size to a few hours for the larger models. “We generally ship one booth or more a day,” Mann said. “The smaller booths take a day to make while the larger ones take a little longer.”
Mann shared he used his creativity to solve a problem he had in finding a place to record his music. He encourages other entrepreneurs to do the same. “It’s also important to listen to consultants and other business people,” he said. “There are places and organizations who are eager to lend a hand to new businesses including REDI and EDCO. Be humble and ask for assistance.”
While Mann is proud of his company’s success as it continues to grow incrementally every year, he’s more so of his company’s culture. “I aim to provide a company workplace where my employees are my biggest asset,” he said. “I want VocalBooth to be viable and profitable, and I believe that happens when my employees are happy. We have 13 employees who I trust to do their jobs. Their dedication to their work makes our customers happy.”
Mann said by giving his employees ownership for the entire process of making and shipping the VocalBooth it results in client satisfaction and increased sales. “Clients open our crates and put together our product, and 99.5 percent are blown away, telling us the product goes beyond their expectations,” he said. “People let us know we provided them with a solution to meet their specific needs.”
Rhino Skin Solutions
Justin Brown credits his natural curiosity, his habit of reading the labels of food and healthcare products and his dry hands for being the building blocks to start Rhino Skin Solutions.
Brown, 42, started rock climbing when he was eight years old. He and his wife, Andrea, moved to Central Oregon from Portland to be closer to rock climbing sites, including Smith Rock State Park.
Navigating a wall with their hands and feet requires rock climbers to invest in a healthy skin routine. Andrea needed a product to calm her sweaty hands so she wouldn’t risk slipping and Brown need something to soothe his dry hands so they wouldn’t crack.
Most of the products they found had ingredients they thought were too harsh to use on their skin. “Andrea is a pharmacist, and I’m always asking her what this ingredient does and how it works,” he said. “There were a lot of ingredients in products I couldn’t pronounce, and that I wasn’t super excited about putting on my skin.”
Talking with fellow rock climbers, Brown realized there was a need for essential care products to help climbers perform their best. Incorporating his background as a chef and his wife’s knowledge as a pharmacist, Brown set out to create a line of products to strengthen, build, repair, clean and maintain a person’s skin.
He researched ingredients’ properties and learned what each one could do. He started making batches in his kitchen, transferring them to Ziplock bags and then piping them into bottles to give to friends and fellow rock climbers to evaluate.
His friends’ feedback encouraged him to launch Rhino Skin Solutions in 2015 in Redmond. “We use earth grown ingredients that are nongreasy,” he said.
Today, he and his two-person team make skincare products for athletes, including repair, massage and performance creams, wound ointments, hand sprays, cleansing soaps, bug sprays and hand sanitizers. He also has Hi-4 Dog Care, a line of dog care products.
Rhino Skin Solutions is sold at more than 200 rock climbing gyms in the United States and internationally in Canada, Mexico, United Kingdom, European Union, New Zealand, Australia and Scandinavian countries. “Every day, I am amazed how successful the company is and how quickly it has grown,” he said. “I am grateful for the support from the climbing community and my amazing employees.” When he started, he had one employee working ten hours a week. Now, he has two full-time employees.
While he sometimes misses the banter and camaraderie of working at a restaurant, he is enjoying the more casual work environment of being his own boss. “I’m self-driven and I like knowing the more I give to my business, the more it will grow,” he said. “I also like that this is a way for us to give back to our community.”
Describing himself as an average rock climber, Brown is thrilled at the support he receives from world-class rock climbers. He was recently in awe when Janja Garnbret of Slovenia captured the gold medal at the Olympics after dominating the bouldering and lead rounds. “She uses our products and swears by them,” he said.
Brown said Rhino Skin Solutions’ products are for anyone who wants to maintain healthy skin for whatever they enjoy doing.