Paul Orfalea founded Kinko’s in 1970 near the University of California at Santa Barbara with a simple idea: provide college students with products and services they need at a competitive price. The space that Orfalea rented for his copy business was so small the copy machine had to be lugged out onto the sidewalk. From its modest beginnings, Kinko’s is now the world’s leading business services chain. Today, there are over 1100 Kinko’s worldwide.
Much of Kinko’s success can be traced directly to Orfalea’s unique business philosophy that was based on the founder’s freethinking, creative style. Orfalea’s theories and instincts on how to operate a successful business were grounded in his passion for retailing, his insistence on taking care of his co-workers and customers, and a sharp eye for opportunity. Through Paul Orfalea’s leadership, Kinko’s has taken an exemplary leading role in environmental responsibility.
Orfalea encouraged active participation from all 25,000 co-workers and generous incentive programs were implemented to stimulate creativity. In fact, co-workers at every level were encouraged to share ideas freely in organizational decisions. A reflection of this success is that Fortune Magazine selected Kinko’s as one of the “100 Best Companies to Work with in America” for three years in a row. Forbes Magazine also ranked Kinko’s 84th on its year 2000 “Forbes 500 Biggest Private Companies.” Working Mother magazine lists Kinko’s in it’s Best Companies for Working Mother’s 2001 issue.
The year 2000 brought about many changes for Orfalea as he retired from his position as Kinko’s Chairperson, and assumed the role as Chairperson Emeritus for Kinko’s Inc. Orfalea is no longer involved with Kinko’s. He now devotes much of his time to new business ventures with his associates.
One of those ventures is the formation of the Orfalea Family Foundation, which supports various philanthropic efforts, but specifically spotlights early care and education at children’s centers, care giver training and intergenerational programs. Orfalea, his family, and Kinko’s have a long history of supporting educational initiatives including scholarships and child development programs with efforts concentrated in California.
Paul Orfalea’s current focus is to increase public awareness of the important need for businesses to act “family friendly” and support for working parents. Orfalea is working with government leaders to encourage businesses and educational institutions to provide these benefits to co-workers and students.
Orfalea is in great demand for public speaking, often addressing business organizations, especially entrepreneurs and working women, with his inspirational messages. He frequently lectures at University of Southern California, (his alma mater), UC Davis, UC Santa Barbara, as well as various community and state colleges, and he has taught at NYU and Wharton School of Business among others. Both USC and Cal Poly plan to dedicate business schools in the Orfalea name in honor of his many ongoing contributions.
In 2000, People Magazine profiled Orfalea as one of several prominent leaders who has overcome dyslexia and gone on to have illustrious careers. Other recent prestigious awards are the 1998 Entrepreneur of the Year award from the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business; the 2000 Philanthropist of the Year by the Network of California Community Colleges; and in 2001 the Conrad Hilton Entrepreneur award, the Beta Gamma Sigma Medallion for Entrepreneurship, along with the Ellis Island Medal of Honor and the Salvation Army “Sally” award for Business Leadership.
Despite all of these high profile activities, you will find Paul Orfalea very down to earth, friendly, compassionate and continually curious about the world around him – he is a true modern adventurer.
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