Wind Walker Label marks 20 years
By Eric Mathes
Eric Mathes photo
This year marks the 20th anniversary for Wind Walker Label in Kiel. Over the past two decades, the growing printing company has continued to expand to meet the increasing demand from customers.

This year, Wind Walker Label in Kiel celebrates 20 years of business.

The family-owned company, established in 1994, started in Plymouth with just four employees. They moved to Kiel in 2003 and over the last two decades have steadily grown as a company. Currently employing 47 people, Wind Walker looks ahead to a bright future.

Mike Willeford, who owns the company with his family, credits the entire Wind Walker team for the company’s success.

“The fact that we’ve made it through 20 years, and are continuing to grow is such a wonderful accomplishment for us,” he said. His philosophy acknowledges that the success of the company is because of all the employees, not just one individual.

As the company continues to grow, the small, family business atmosphere remains the foundation. Wind Walker’s business model creates an environment that empowers all employees to contribute to the growth of the company.

With a focus on service and quality products, one of Wind Walker’s biggest achievements is that they continue to support the same customers they have had since 1994. Customer service and fast turnaround times remain the focus of the company as they take on new customers and expand their business.

Growth gives way to expansions

As the company began to gain momentum growing its clientele, the need for more space became necessary.

In 2003, Wind Walker built a new 25,000 square foot facility in Kiel which was later expanded to 38,000 square feet in 2010.

Three years later, in October of 2013, the company expanded again with a 22,000 square foot warehouse expansion.

The latest expansion was due to a change in Wind Walker’s vendor management system that makes reorders more efficient for customers.

With the majority of paper mills residing in the Midwest, the region also serves as the hub for the printing industry.

The company has grown its sales force with four outside sales representatives located in Illinois, Ohio, and Minnesota.

New technology has also been upgraded on the front of the process in the art department.

Wind Walker continues to push the production end because of an increase in demand from customers.

The current property has room for one more possible addition if needed before it outgrows the location.

Product development given priority

With new research and development, the capabilities of the company continue to grow.

Although located in the small town of Kiel, the company manufactures labels for household brands which include Masters Gallery Foods, Worthington Cylinders, Hoffmaster Group, Solo Cup, and Procter and Gamble.

A year and a half ago, the Wind Walker Label hired Rick Ropson as director of sales and new product development.

Nestled in his small, cluttered office, Ropson is busy researching and designing new products that stay on the front end of industry trends.

“What’s great about this company is that although we are growing, there is still a great family environment here,” Ropson said.

Beyond standard label printing, Wind Walker is able to create products with specialty inks and materials that allows them to compete on the highest level in the industry.

“We do everything from metallic and fluorescent inks to holographic and thermal materials,” Ropson said. “Much of our current development utilizes new

materials that is increasing in demand. We keep up on trends and stay competitive among the biggest manufacturers.”
Cutting down the waste

Along with product development, the company has been successful in implementing a more lean manufacturing outlook at Wind Walker Label to improve efficiency and cut down on waste.

Wind Walker’s press operators and finishing staff are some of the most highly trained in their industry. They are

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