Norelco Cabinets is celebrating 50 years of being a locally owned and operated cabinet manufacturer in Kelowna, BC. Peter Raja, Norelco’s current Owner and President, purchased Norelco in 2002 along with his two silent partners.
Raja came from the construction industry; he had worked with Norelco on quite a few projects and built the home for the previous owner. After forging a friendship, the opportunity came along, and Raja thought owning a manufacturing plant would be more stable than building house after house.
From a small family business to an international exporter with a 60,000 sq. ft. facility and over 150 employees, Norelco manufacturers cabinetry for high-end luxury homes and meets the timelines for large-scale multi-family developments. Norelco operates with three different divisions: local market, dealer network, and international export and produces about 650 kitchens per year.
“It was evident from an early period that Norelco was meant to be international,” said Raja. “We currently produce and deliver cabinetry for high-end luxury projects throughout Western USA, including the Hawaii, which we started in 2010 due to the recession to expand our business into other markets.”
“We get to work on a lot of unique projects, high-end custom homes — anything from condos right through to multi-million-dollar homes,” said Raja. “Designers create a vision that only a few companies in the world can do, and we are one of them. It’s challenging yet fun. Something new and exciting, and every day is new. Never repetitive.”
Building on a foundation
When Raja and his partners bought the company, they knew they wanted to carry on and build upon a solid foundation of what the previous owner had created.
“We have built long-term relationships with our client base who are very loyal to us. We have built the company on those relationships, word of mouth, and customer service. We have had employees that have been with us for 20-30 years. Within the sales and production teams. We have a lot of experience in the industry, and not only are the clients loyal, but the loyalty and commitment from our team have built Norelco to the place it is today.”
Room for improvement
We asked Raja if he thinks there’s room for improvement within his company and the industry.
“With technology, automation, software, and new equipment that links from the design stage to installation, there is always room for improvement,” said Raja. “We all continue to evolve, especially with the labour shortages we have been experiencing through COVID. More and more companies are leaning towards automation.”
Weaving in sustainability
Norelco has pursued all North American-made products, including domestic plywood made in Canada. All their export material in pro-core has soy-based adhesives, which eliminates formaldehyde. Norelco uses UFA products, all paints are oil-based, and they buy products that are part of Built Green British Columbia. Raja is proud that his company can reduce indoor air pollutants with the option of water-based finishes and by utilizing recycled wood products with no added urea-formaldehyde.
“Many dealers are very interested in these features. The industry has a long way to go to promote environmentally friendly products. Still, unfortunately, price is a factor in dealers deciding what types of environmentally friendly products they are willing to purchase. The product is still more expensive than the simple line, hindering the growth of these friendly products.”
Why is our industry attractive to work in?
Like most companies, the struggle to find people to work in our sector is increasingly difficult. Companies have to look at new and creative ways to attract talent and retain it. Raja has empowered his employees to have a voice that he believes strengthens his company’s culture.
“We are proud that our people are our strength at Norelco. We are creating something that is the heart of a home,” said Raja. “Everyone lives and entertains in their kitchens, and it’s an area in the home you can be very proud of. You live and breathe in your kitchen. Homebuilders are building these beautiful homes, and one of the areas that they are most proud of is the kitchen.”
Raja knows that if you want to get into the construction industry, you should join a trade that you can be proud to work in.
“We are continually growing with the demand and are taking the living wage where our team can make a living. We continually build our staff, promote within and help build and create careers in the industry. The work is creative and fun, and every day is different. At Norelco, it’s social, and we try to create an uplifting and exciting workplace. We have to deal with many challenges daily, but we overcome them, and it’s rewarding when we do complete those challenges.”
A living wage for Canadians
Reflecting on the industry overall and whether the future is bright, Raja believes the market and industry have a bright future in Canada and the US. But Raja is concerned about the impact of low-end imports.
“The country is allowing low-end imports in the market with many different businesses,” said Raja. “We are trying to create a different type of lifestyle where Canadians can have a living wage and make a decent living, and the government wants the same thing for employees with the benefits that we offer. Unfortunately, other countries don’t have to offer that, yet Canada allows all these products to come in and undercut Canadian employees. The government has to be able to protect what we want for Canadians because so much is going to imports. At Norelco Cabinets, we focus on high-end custom since mid to low-end products are coming in from overseas. We try to push Canadian and North American made products, as we want to support our local communities and minimize our environmental footprint.”
Sandra Wood is the Secretary and Executive Director for the CKCA. She enjoys “connecting the dots” and facilitating strong networking opportunities to engage members. She believes associations are about fostering strong business relationships fueled by an empathic and sound business approach.