By Jon Bell
While on a visit to his cousin’s Beaverton home more than 20 years ago, Steve Bronson caught a whiff of something that flipped on a light bulb in his mind: air fresheners.
Bronson had been running his own one-man commercial cleaning company, but he’d been wanting to start a mail-order business to supplement the income. Air fresheners seemed like the right idea, so he launched Air Delights. Without any business education, Bronson had only his ideas to go on.
“I had a blue-collar background and I graduated high school,” says Bronson, 51, “but everything I’ve done with Air Delights has just been based on my own ideas.”
For Bronson, that meant sending a letter to every air freshener company he could find, selling to his friends and family — his first customer was, no surprise, Glenda — and landing an unlikely account as a distributor for a large air freshener and soap dispenser company called Technical Concepts. Three years in and on the verge of throwing in the towel he bought a computer and figured out how to take his business online. With a lot of hard work and dedication, it took off.
Today, Air Delights sells more than 25,000 different plumbing and restroom accessory products to 50,000 customers around the world, including 25 U.S. embassies, Harvard University and the Ferrari World amusement park in Abu Dhabi. Housed in a commercial building in Beaverton purchased last October, the company employs 10 and, according to Bronson, has revenues approaching $5 million a year.
Though Air Delights’ residential business was hit hard during the recession — the company no longer even serves that market — Bronson says the commercial side has been steady. He attributes that to a solid reputation as a trustworthy company and a larger focus on more specialized plumbing repair parts. Air Delights also has begun to dabble in private labeling and manufacturing its own products such as air fresheners and soap dispensers, an endeavor that Bronson sees as the key to growing his once-little company by about 10% to 15% a year.
“If you’ve got determination,” he says, “you’d be surprised at what you can do.”