Flooring Company Embraces California Lifestyle

ENCINITAS – More and more people are looking down at their product, but that’s a good thing for CALI.

The flooring company has been recognized by Inc. 500 as one of the fastest-growing companies 13 years in a row, and CEO and President Doug Jackson has been named a finalist in the Pacific Southwest region of Ernst & Young LLP’s international Entrepreneur of the Year recognition.

The Pacific Southwest region covers Southern California, Arizona and Nevada, and winners will be announced June 7 before advancing to the competition’s national level.

Jackson said people from Ernst & Young said they were impressed with how CALI embraced the California lifestyle to create a recognized brand in an industry that can be “exceptionally boring.”

“People make fun of our politics and our traffic, but they don’t make fun of our lifestyle,” he said.

That attitude is apparent throughout the company’s headquarters on Encinitas Boulevard, where it moved from Mira Mesa about a year ago. A line of hardwood products is named after California winery regions and a waterproof line of flooring is named after famous surf spots, including some regularly surfed by Jackson.

The company’s hang-loose image was inspired by its founders, a bartender named Tanner Haigwood and biotech engineer Jeff Goldberg who shipped a crate of bamboos to San Diego to create CALI Bamboo after discovering the product on a Hawaiian surfing trip.

The company has been aggressive in growth since the beginning. The founders were early adopters to online performance marketing before selling their company to a private equity firm. CALI changed hands again about two years ago when it was purchased by the public firm Victoria PLC, listed on the London Stock Exchange (VCP.L) and the largest flooring manufacturer in Europe with annual revenue of about $1.5 billion.

Before joining CALI seven years ago, Jackson had been with the flooring company Shaw Industry for 25 years and was a divisional vice president but was experiencing corporate burnout and looking for a change.

Shifting Focus to Flooring

Trading his white shirt and business suit for sandals and khaki, Jackson also changed the company’s name from CALI Bamboo to just CALI and shifted its focus from a niche bamboo market to flooring.

CALI still is the nation’s largest importer of bamboo flooring, with most of the products coming from China, and bamboo represents 15% of their product line.

Since the shift to flooring, CALI’s annual revenue has grown from $30 million to about $180 million. In 2023, the company had 80,000 shipments totaling 2.3 million boxes of flooring.

Jackson calls the color line of most of his competitors “a sea of sameness” while CALI’s products are intended to represent the hues of the state’s coastal environment.

The products also stand out because of their larger size. While most flooring planks are a standard of 5 inches by 48 inches, CALI’s is 9 inches by 72 inches.

“It’s a different aesthetic in the home,” Jackson said. “It makes a wider and better looking, grander floor.”

Products are manufactured around the world, and CALI has warehouses in Colton, Seattle, Dallas and Charleston, South Carolina. CALI flooring can be bought through the company’s website and locally at Lowe’s and Coles Fine Flooring.

Its product line also includes indoor/outdoor turf, decking, vinyl planks and laminates.

Unique Approach to Sales

Jackson said the company has always had a relationship with the end user, meaning people could buy their products directly from them.

“That bothered a lot of people in the flooring industry who sold through distribution and through dealers and home centers,” he said.

Unlike most major flooring companies that deal only with trade professionals and retailers, CALI also has sales teams for home consumers, home centers and major production builders.

“That is really unique in business today, where you get an opportunity to sell to your customers, and your customers are OK with you selling to their customers,” he said, adding that trade professionals and retailers came onboard with the multi-channel approach because of CALI’s quality and competitive pricing.

Jackson said people from Ernst & Young told him that sales approach was one of the reasons he was recognized in the Entrepreneur of the Year competition.

Jackson is humbled by the recognition from Ernst & Young, and he credits his team with the company’s success.

“CALI is a lot more than Doug Jackson,” he said. “CALI is a culture and group of folks who believe in what we’re doing.”

CALI
FOUNDED: 2004
CEO: Doug Jackson
HEADQUARTERS: Encinitas
BUSINESS: Home improvement
REVENUE: $180 million
EMPLOYEES: 200+
CONTACT: 866-847-0425
WEBSITE: www.califloors.com
SOCIAL IMPACT: CALI has sponsored the local and national Surfrider Foundation and offers green alternatives to traditional materials.
NOTABLE: The company’s revenue has grown from $30 million to $180 million in seven years.