President and CEO, WoodLink Ltd.
When Dave Nylen of West Des Moines, Iowa, went looking for a new entrepreneurial business adventure, he didn’t have to look much farther than his brother’s garage.
His brother, Link, created WoodLink Ltd. in 1988, making butcher blocks, cutting boards, and rocking horses in his garage. Six months later, at the encouragement of a friend, Link added birdfeeders to the collection. In 1993, Dave joined his brother’s company. Prior to that, Nylen worked for the Tones spice company for 14 years, holding seven different positions in sales and marketing.
“I had worked my entire career at Tones, helping to grow the company’s sales from $7 million annually to more than $110 million,” he says. “But with the opportunity to run a business and have ownership of the company, I knew it was the right time to get back into more entrepreneurial ventures and be involved in all aspects of a business.”
WoodLink has come a long way, too. Initially, the company’s products were sold to garden centers and gift stores by independent sales rep organizations around the country. Nylen, president and CEO, indicated they might handle 10 to 15 other product lines in addition to birdfeeders. The company still uses sales reps, but it also now sells directly to thousands of retailers nationwide with a drop ship program from the factory. It also sells to wholesalers and distributors across the country and to various catalog and Internet companies that have no “brick-and-mortar outlets,” Nylen says. Finally, WoodLink partners with companies to sell its products via their sales and distribution channels. For example, it currently sells nearly 60 different items on the Better Homes & Gardens new online store that is promoted in its magazine.
“Another way we’ve been able to diversify our business is by providing private label manufacturing to major chains and big-box stores,” he says. “WoodLink handles the entire program from product design to manufacturing and importing to design of labels and collateral materials. The product ends up on the shelf of a major chain with their private label.”
Being located in Iowa is definitely a plus, Nylen says.
“Our corporate office is in West Des Moines, Iowa, and our manufacturing facility is in Mount Ayr, Iowa,” Nylen says. “The average tenure of our people at the plant is 13 years, and they take great pride in their craftsmanship. Because we’re centrally located at the intersection of Interstates 80 and 35, getting freight out to customers on both coasts happens easily. In addition to our ‘Made in USA’ products, we have an office in Hong Kong and work with a half dozen manufacturing facilities in China that produce our product.”
Today, WoodLink is the exclusive licensee to manufacture and sell National Audubon Society feeders, and the company ranks among the top five largest bird-feeding companies in the country.