At OOLY, a Carlsbad-headquartered company known for its whimsical and colorful arts, crafts and unique school supply items, Bill Ness said he “might be the least creative person” on site.
“The kind of employee that OOLY attracts are folks that are creative in nature but also they like to inspire,” said Ness, who was recently hired by OOLY CEO Carol Pankiw as the 18-year-old company’s first-ever president. “You find creative product people, creative marketing people, creative design people at OOLY. What I get to do is understand where they’re going and what they’re trying to do, and orchestrate a plan to get there.”
Ness joined OOLY, known for its fun and functional writing, art making and colorful art supplies that inspire creativity, in mid-February with a proven track record that deeply impressed Pankiw.
Ness has significant business experience, from startups to Fortune 100 and Fortune 500 companies, most recently as Principal Owner of TwoThree Group, a consulting agency that he still runs. Until February, Ness was executive vice president and market leader of San Diego’s Signature Analytics, which provides accounting and business advisory solutions to small- and middle-market companies.
Born and raised in Maryland and a 1983 graduate of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he earned a B.S. in industrial relations, Ness landed in San Diego after five years as VP of operations with American Express in Arizona and Utah.
He was recruited to the region in 1995 by Road Runner Sports, for 40 years the world’s largest running store. While at Road Runner, Ness was president, COO and vice president of sales, helping the company grow its operations from $20 million to $100 million from 1995-2005.
“At the time, Road Runner Sports was relatively small compared to what they are today,” Ness said.
Looking to Double Business
Now he and Pankiw are actively working together with the OOLY team to grow the company, looking to double the business over the next three years. “Bill has a deep understanding of building service models, driving strategic operational planning, and contributing to organizational expansion and growth,” said Pankiw, a New York native who came to California in 2003, where she originally started OOLY in Oceanside.
“In addition to Bill’s wealth of knowledge cultivated over the course of his 35-year career, I found him to be a great cultural fit. He is a strong leader and has an established reputation for developing happy and productive teams. He is warm, engaging and is genuinely interested in the success of others.”
Pankiw said Ness’s deep understanding of building service models, strategic operational planning and contributing to company expansion and growth will scale OOLY’s business.
In a period of rapid growth for the company, she said, Ness will be responsible for driving the fiscal and administrative integrity of the organization – in addition to optimizing operational processes to meet revenue growth targets.
Festive Paints, Pens and Journals
OOLY distributes everything from paints, clay glitter pens and erasable markers to stickers, journals and sketchbooks to 90 different countries. It sells direct to consumers at ooly.com and via amazon.com.
OOLY also sells wholesale to stores and is available at more than 7,000 locations, from stationery and toy stores – including local Geppetto’s Toys – to bookstores and other nationwide sites like Target and Sprouts Farmers Markets.
OOLY also has a sister business, Calico Sun, that sells accessories like bracelets, necklaces, hair accessories, nail stickers and keychains.
Ness said while he is not the creative sort, he understands his role in bringing OOLY’s creators’ visions to life. “I’m not the artist, I’m more about listening,” Ness said. “I get to allow the space and room and time for the creative people to tell me about their dreams and goals. I can create the path from their ideas and thoughts and really make it happen, make sure it executes both efficiently on time and delivers on what they expect.”
FOUNDER AND CEO: Carol Pankiw
PRESIDENT: Bill Ness
BUSINESS: Arts & crafts and expressive/creative school supply brand
CONTACT: ooly.com/pages/contact or 760-231-7603
SOCIAL IMPACT: OOLY is a Women’s Business Enterprise National Council-certified business and has a partnership with adoptaclassroom.org.
NOTABLE: OOLY asks its fans to use the hashtags #addhappy, #OOLY, #OOLYcreateyourhappy and tag @WeAreOOLY to their Instagram posts to connect with the company, and notes that “as a partner in happy, you’re helping to ensure the next generation of creative thinkers and innovators.”