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Wallquest's World: Wayne wallcoverings firm wins small biz award for exports, hiring up to 40

Wallquest has China covered. Dubai, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and India, too. The Wayne-based wallcoverings firm was just named Small Business Exporter of the Year by the Export-Import Bank, and received an award this week in Washington, DC. Wallquest's exports rose 76 percent to more than $17 million since 2008, thanks to robust sales overseas. Jack Collins is Vice President of the family-run company, which he runs along with his brother and father, who acquired Wallquest in 1985.

While the original customer base was domestic, big box retailers and toll free sales left no one to sell to in the United States, and Collins says Wallquest had to go overseas around 2005, now selling environmentally-friendly products in more than 50 foreign markets. With a good brand name in America, the company has had great success in emerging markets in Asia and the Middle East, and the trend is toward American design.

"You wouldn't think someone in Saudi Arabia or China would want American country style, but they do," says Collins, who explains that among affluent Chinese homeowners, a big wooden kitchen table is a sign of wealth, and American design dovetails with that table.

While Wallquest is a relatively small company, says Collins, its line is more extensive than competitors', with around 35 collections coming out this year.

"Our business used to be more seasonal, and now it's not because of our international clients. When the US market is strong in winter and spring, it's Chinese New Year, and in the summer, when the US market is down, the Chinese and Middle East markets are coming up."

Collins is grateful to both Ex-Im Bank and PNC Bank for playing an essential role in the company's global growth. Wallquest wallcoverings are made with water based inks and the highest quality printing technology in the main manufacturing facility in Wayne; recently, the company acquired and retooled two other factories in New York and New Jersey, bringing the total number of employees to 150. Later this year, Wallquest plans on opening another facility in King of Prussia, hiring an additional 30 to 40 employees.

Source: Jack Collins, Wallquest
Writer: Sue Spolan
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