Wood Industry Magazine has recently partnered with the Canadian Kitchen Cabinet Association (CKCA) to share their member profiles. Check out this article written by Executive Director Sandra Wood on Lev2 Millwork, originally published in their monthly newsletter.
Lev2 Millwork, based in Oshawa, Ontario, started as a labour of love three years ago by designer and owner Alexis Kofman. Her vision to offer exceptional design to everyone at multiple price points sparked a millwork business with 20 staff working over two shifts. Currently, they work with 9,000 sq. ft of gallery and 12,500 sq. ft of production space; they are “busting out of it already!” This enthusiastic group works hard to create and produce products that meet the owner’s vision.
Dream it, build it
The company admits that they’ve had their bumps and bruises along the way but have really hit their stride in the last year. In the words of Chris Thompson, Director E-Commerce and Business Development, “The focus and dedication to the product, process, and clients is unbelievable! If you can dream it, we can build it.”
CKCA: What sets you apart from your competitors?
Thompson: We knew from the very beginning that with hard work, great things would grow. The market in which Lev2 operates is tough, and we are always working to distinguish ourselves from others.
We can do this by looking at the market as a whole and constantly asking, “what’s next”? By constantly evolving and adding services to our expansive repertoire, we can continue growing, which sets us apart.
Labour shortage no issue
CKCA: The labour shortage is an ongoing issue; why have you chosen to expand operations and bring on more staff in this climate?
Thompson: We are growing fast and really have not been impacted by the labour shortage. When we post for positions on job boards or through social media, we get a ton of replies. On top of this, we have taken the opportunities offered within this crazy market and focused on growth. We are expanding into areas that we would not have in the past; we are no longer just a custom kitchen manufacturer. We are a true full-service CNC-enabled millwork shop. For Lev2, the future is most definitely bright; with the new lines we have in development, and in prototyping, we see nothing but success coming our way.
CKCA: Why do you think people want to work for you?
Thompson: I would like to think that the word on the street is that Lev2 is an awesome place to work, and people want to join in our success. We are focused on hiring only the best, but we also expect a lot from every member of the Lev2 family. We work very hard to ensure we are bringing only the very best to market, and if people want to become a part of the family, they are very welcome to if they want to work.
Open for business
CKCA: Are you open to providing work to other manufacturers?
Thompson: Most definitely! We are open to working with other suppliers and manufacturers! True growth within any industry does not come at the loss of your competitors; it comes when you can offer services and growth opportunities to those companies that you partner with. The days of trying to crush your competitor by lowering costs and pulling business in the door by cutting things to the bone is over. The millwork industry has a great opportunity to change how we all do business and use that change to drive profit. I truly believe that through inter-company partnership, everyone can succeed.
Growing to be different
CKCA: What goals have you set for the company?
Thompson: When I started with Lev2, I liked to joke about attaining “total world domination,” but now I am honestly working towards growing the business into something different than what the market sees currently. We are ready, willing, and able to offer so much to the market on both the client and supplier partner side it’s a very exciting time. From complete custom builds to contractor-style ready-made cabinetry, we have the line to help our clients succeed. We have even started offering cutting services as backfill to busy shops that simply do not have the capacity to keep up. One of the things we will be offering very shortly is branded build programs to smaller shops that are having issues keeping up with their current workload. We will build for them and brand the product as if it came from their shop and help them keep up with their workload. This is an extension of the companies’ partnership I mentioned earlier; if we all work together, we all succeed. If I have the capacity and can help someone who has already made a sale, why not?
From crazy ideas to supportive teams
CKCA: Why are you confident these goals are achievable?
Thompson: Everyone at Lev2 is always very positive and understands where we are going. We all understand that anything is achievable if you are willing to put the work in, and boy do we work! The Lev2 family is probably one of the most supportive teams I have ever had the pleasure of working with. We all work hard to take the crazy ideas that pop up during our sales meetings and brainstorming sessions and really look if they have merit. Ownership is super supportive and always asking questions and working towards making our clients happy.
CKCA: What are some of the challenges you currently face, and how are you looking to overcome those challenges?
Thompson: Product and supplier delays. We are looking for alternative methods and working closely with partners and competitors to find new avenues for supply. Covid is becoming an excuse, costs went up and never came back down, and we need to address it.
CKCA: Why should clients buy from you and not from cheaper foreign competitors?
Thompson: The importation of foreign goods has been an issue within all industries for longer than I have been alive. The issue I see with cabinetry or millwork, when it comes to importation, you never really know what you are getting. From cheaply made products to countries with questionable labor laws, it’s a huge melting pot of issues that really have no solution. If we genuinely want to see a strong Canada and a strong market, we need to develop better jobs within the market we live in. The millwork industry offers great pay, stability and we all need to support it by buying Canadian market goods.
Looking to the future
CKCA: Where do you see the industry going overall, and how does Lev2 fit into that vision?
Thompson: The industry is growing, but I think it’s moving towards a time of change. Smaller builders may start to see that the overhead of running their shop takes them out of being competitive within certain markets, so buying ready-made custom cabinetry is the way to go. Some will start to delegate the more labour-intensive side of the business to third-party companies specializing in cutting, finishing, or designing. I, for one, have some very hungry equipment, and I have time to sell on that equipment, and if I can help a partner get ahead, I am happy to do so. I do worry about the companies that decide to stay with the status quo; I think we are moving into a time when companies that are not trying new things will not survive.
CKCA: What is Lev2’s view of the industry overall?
Thompson: One word: Opportunity!
CKCA is pleased to have Lev2 Millwork as a member. The industry is evolving and changing even during these challenging times of Covid-19. We wish Lev2 Millwork great success. Their enthusiasm and innovative perspective about the industry came through loud and clear!
If you’d like more information, get in touch with Chris Thompson, Director E-Commerce and Business Development, you can reach him at 1-905-240-5382 x105.
“As a member of CKCA, I have found that we are seeing constant contact with the CKCA, multiple different helpful programs, and constant opportunities being offered to Lev2. It’s been absolutely brilliant working with CKCA. I foresee a continuing relationship between Lev2 and the CKCA well into the future.“
-Chris Thompson, Director of E-Commerce and Business Development
CKCA Members strive for quality, professionalism, and innovation. For more profiles like these and many other benefits, consider becoming a CKCA member!
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.