Midwestern accessories manufacturer goes from model airplanes to hot tubs
By Andrew Lisa
In 2015, Byron Originals presented the UltraLift Vision at the International Pool and Spa Show in Las Vegas. It was riding a wave of industry buzz after the new cover lift — which it distributes in partnership with a Canadian steel company — wowed audiences in Atlantic City the previous year. With a new design that brings the cover down to the floor, the lift eliminates the visual obstruction traditional top-mounted cover lifts create. The company says it believes the cover lift is one of a kind.
It was the latest in a series of bold innovations that have earned Byron Originals a reputation for creativity, quality manufacturing and long, strong relationships with both their customers and employees.
SMALL TOWN, SMALL BUSINESS
Byron Originals is the quintessential Midwestern manufacturer.
The third-generation, family-owned business sits across the street from its sister company in Ida Grove, Iowa, a rural town of roughly 2,000. The late founder’s son is the company president. His grandson is the COO. His wife chairs the board.
Byron employs roughly 25 people, a group that functions more as an extended family than co-workers. The average employee has been there for 20 years.
“One guy started working here before I was born,” says Joe Nicholson, director of sales and marketing at Byron Originals.
“And I’m 41.”
Byron’s in-house plastics molding division, which dates back to the company’s origins as a manufacturer of model airplane fuel and parts, enables it to offer high-end accessories with modest price tags.
“Just a few dollars more than an entry-level step but 10 times the quality,” Nicholson says of one of its product lines.
STURDY STEPS, VERSATILE LIFTS AND DEALER-FOCUSED INNOVATION
Unlike inexpensive, blow-molded giveaway steps that are shaky and hollow, Byron Originals’ injection molding produces solid, durable steps. For some applications, it uses rotational molding, a method that yields precision and durability but can be time consuming and pricy.
The Sure Step II is weight rated to 800 pounds. It snaps together in seconds with no tools, fits all tub shapes, and won’t weather or discolor in the sun. At trade shows, Nicholson says he puts his full weight on the extra wide risers, and the step doesn’t move.
“You can’t beat the cost for the quality,” says Nick Kasten, sales manager for the Arizona Hot Tub Company (formerly Prescott Spas) in Prescott Valley, Arizona. “With a larger person, you can feel the flex in a cheap step. With the Sure Step II, you just don’t.”
“You have to try to damage them,” Nicholson says.
Byron is the exclusive U.S. master distributor of the simple, yet multifunctional UltraLift. Made by a Canadian steel company, the lifts are manufactured from galvalume, a steel/aluminum hybrid that is not only stronger but also performs better.
Recent innovations were made with dealers in mind.
The manufacturer saves installation teams critical minutes by prewelding components that would otherwise
have to be fastened in the field with nuts and bolts. Including a mounting bracket that can be repositioned to top mount saves the installer’s knuckles.
Byron is challenging industry norms with UltraLift, a one-size-fits-all lift that takes pressure off limited dealer storage and showroom space. Instead of carrying different lifts for tubs of varying shapes and sizes, retailers can now just carry one.
“It works with side mount, deck mount or an optional undermount plate so you don’t have to screw everything in,” Nicholson says. “It’s the most versatile lift there is. Period. Nothing comes close.”
GENERATIONAL RELATIONSHIPS AND SMALL-TOWN CUSTOMER SERVICE
Byron’s customers have unfettered access. If any customer has a complaint, Nicholson talks to that customer directly.
“We support our dealers by taking care of their customers,” Nicholson says. “My job is to always make dealers look good, so if their customers have a problem, I never give them the runaround. I hear the stories about our competitors. We try to be a breath of fresh air.”
For Kasten, who upsells the company’s high-quality products with ease, Byron Originals is exactly that.
“They get back to us, they ship on time and they never run out of stock,” he says. “As a step and handrail provider, you couldn’t ask for anything more.”