Baudville Celebrates 25th Anniversary

July 21, 2008
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GRAND RAPIDS — In 1983, a local company set out to make computer games for Apple computers. Twenty-five years later, it is known for its award and recognition products.

According to Brad Darooge, president and CEO of Baudville Inc., the original intent was “to be a computer game company on old green-screen Apples.

“We noodled around that for a couple of years, not very successfully, and settled on a product in the mid ’80s called Award Maker.”

Bill Darooge, the founder of the company, was at an Apple computer conference in the mid-1980s and saw a company that made awards and was “getting a lot of love, and thought, ‘We could do that better.’”

At that time, Baudville was writing software and developed a product called Award Maker, initially sold to schools. The first version launched in 1985 and, over the following decade, Baudville transitioned its business into award and recognition products, said Darooge.

During the 1990s, the company expanded its product line to support its growth. Along with various paper products, Baudville offered seals, folders and frames — all oriented around recognition and awards. In the same decade, Baudville began to add some small “non-paper recognition items” such as key chains and pens. The company began selling some of the higher-end items such as trophies, plaques and character pins in the late 1990s and early 2000s. In the same period, Baudville launched its “themes.”

“One of our big differentiating factors in our product line is our themes,” said Darooge. “We take creative art and phrases such as ‘Team: Together everyone achieves more’ or, currently one of our top sellers, ‘Essential piece’ with a puzzle icon, and we marry those with different products that can support an organization’s recognition philosophy, their team-building philosophy, and they can use us as a one-stop shop for gifts to reinforce positive behavior in their work environment.”

Another product that was quickly made into a “sister brand” is IDville. IDville launched as a brand in 2002, but the software for it started in the mid ’90s. IDville puts forward identification software, systems and products, and accounts for 20 to 25 percent of revenue, said Darooge.

“IDville has really been a great diversification of our portfolio,” said Darooge. “The reason for a lot of the new jobs we’ve added has been because we’ve had the increased revenue and flow of orders created by having a second brand.”

The company is looking to add 25 to 30 more employees over the next 18 to 24 months, which will help fill its new 65,000-square-foot renovation, almost doubling the facility size. A third brand will also launch this year: Pleasantrees. The eco-friendly greeting card line uses soy-based ink and the paper is made of 50 percent post-consumer waste recycled.

Baudville has come a long way since its start as a computer gaming company.

“You have to listen to the market and where your opportunities are,” said Darooge. “Keep on it and eventually you’ll find a mix that’s right, and I think the last 25 years have proved that effort to stick to it and have an open mind.”

To celebrate its 25th anniversary, Baudville decided sponsored the 250th Habitat for Humanity of Kent County home. That organization is also celebrating its 25th anniversary.

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