Local entrepreneur is on a mission to give back
For Rick Harris, CEO of Ideal Commercial Interiors in Golden Valley, business goes beyond profit margins. “The mission and purpose of Ideal Commercial Interiors are to provide high-quality furniture and services to our customers and build a company that will be long lasting—giving back to the community,” Harris said. He also aspires to create generational wealth for his family.
Harris is originally from Texas. “Spent most of my adult life in California; moved to Minnesota—been here for the last 12 years,” Harris said.
He added, “I decided to open up a business in 2012; same business I was doing in California for 35 years.”
But Harris discovered that it wasn’t easy relaunching his business in Minnesota at first. “It was a different marketplace in California, so it was hard kind of breaking in,” Harris recalled. He worked diligently to earn the business of new customers and never gave up.
Harris said, “I went to MEDA and was referred to one of my wife’s board members—they gave me a counselor to work with and they suggested I work in the public sector.”
He added, “I had to get certified as a minority company. It’s really two battles: companies want to know if you’re able to sell their product and if you’re going to be able to represent them well.” Hard work paid off.
The ICI business offers an array of products and services. “We’re a full-service interior company,” said Harris. Customers can expect high-quality “office furniture, flooring, demountable walls, anything interior we sell.” The most popular selling products are the partitions.
“Right now, a lot of companies are reworking their space so the partitions are still in—before COVID, the walls were coming down and everyone was opening their space,” Harris said.
Business has been flourishing during the pandemic because their furniture helps with COVID protocol, such as social distancing. “Since COVID hit, people’s walls are going back up, so our demountable walls, clear glass walls, segment off the office, and still allow the office to be open,” Harris said.
Harris has an inspiring entrepreneurial plight. “I didn’t go to college, and I’ve always worked hard and worked my way,” Harris shared. “I started out working at a factory—cutting fiberglass for furniture partitions.” The job wasn’t easy, but he acquired invaluable insight.
He added, “I realized that if I was going to get out of that, I needed to work hard, so within five years I learned everything I could learn within the furniture manufacturing business and the company I was working for.” Harris applied his wealth of experience toward starting his own business.
Operating a successful business requires dedication and perseverance. Harris said, “I think the key thing for anyone going into business is being able to understand their products and have a desire or love for what they do.” He emphasized, “There are many dark days and many slow moments—so if you don’t like it and don’t believe in it, it’s hard to continue.”
Harris continued, “I like what I do, I like hiring people, being able to support other people as they grow. And one of the things I’ve done ever since I’ve been here is working with other minority-owned companies.” He values social responsibility and aspires to make a change in the community.
He further explained, “My goal is to really give back and really help young entrepreneurs.” Harris is currently mentoring and working with a local moving company as well as an installation company.
In addition to running a business, Harris teamed up with his friends to launch an organization geared toward helping minority-owned businesses. “Three years ago, my friends and I started an organization called Minority Goods and Services,” Harris said. “I spend 30% of my time doing that.”
He added, “I was in the disparity study in 2017 that showed out of the nine companies that took part of the disparity study, only one-half of 1% went to minority-owned companies.”
As a result of the study, Harris discovered the lack of goods or services deriving from minority-owned businesses and he wants to change that narrative.
He offered encouraging words for aspiring entrepreneurs: “Take a chance on your dreams. Don’t live your life in a box that has been built for you by others saying you can’t. And find something that you enjoy doing that will enhance your lives and others and go sell it!”
Ideal Commercial Interiors is located at 2445 Nevada Ave N., Golden Valley, MN, Suite #200 (Showroom), and 809 E. 7th Street, St. Paul, MN. (Appointment only).
For more info, visit www.idealcommercialinteriors.com or call 763-777-5636.
Ashley Lauren is a contributing writer at the MN Spokesman-Recorder.