Paul Orfalea founded Kinko’s in 1970 with the simple idea of providing college students with products and services they need at competitive prices. The first space that Orfalea rented, near the University of California at Santa Barbara, for his copy business was so small the copy machine had to be wheeled out onto the sidewalk. Although Kinko’s began small, it is now the world’s leading business service chain with over 1,100 Kinko’s worldwide.
Much of Kinko’s success can be traced directly to Orfalea’s unique business philosophy that was based on the founder’s freethinking and creative style. Orfalea’s theories and instincts on how to operate a successful business were grounded in his passion for retailing, his insistence on taking care of his co-workers and customers, and a sharp eye for opportunity. Through Paul Orfalea’s leadership, Kinko’s has taken an exemplary leading role in environmental responsibility.
Orfalea implemented generous incentive programs to encourage active participation from all of his co-workers. Fortune Magazine selected Kinko’s as one of the “100 Best Companies to Work for in America” for three years in a row. Forbes Magazine also ranked Kinko’s 84th on its year 2000 “Forbes 500 Biggest Private Companies”.
In 2000, Orfalea stepped down from Kinko’s Chairperson to assume the role of Chairperson Emeritus for Kinko’s Inc. Although Orfalea is no longer involved in Kinko’s day-to-day operations, he now devotes much of his time to new business venture with his associates.
One of his most recent ventures is the formation of the Orfalea Family Foundation, which supports various philanthropic efforts, but specifically concentrates on early care child and infant centers.
Paul Orfalea’s new focus is to increase public awareness of the importance for quality early care for children of working parents. Orfalea is working with government leaders to encourage businesses and educational institutions to provide this benefit to co-workers and students.
In 2000, People Magazine profiled Orfalea as one of several prominent leaders who has overcome dyslexia and gone on to have illustrious careers. Other recent prestigious awards include the 1998 Entrepreneur of the Year award from the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business; the 2000 Philanthropist of the Year by the Network of California Community Colleges; and in 2001 the Conrad Hilton Entrepreneur award, along with a nomination for the Ellis Island Medal of Honor.
Both University of Southern California and Cal Poly, where he frequently lectures, have plans to dedicate business schools in the Orfalea name in honor of his many ongoing contributions.