EcoTimber was founded in 1992 when, after touring South America and seeing the destruction of the tropical rainforests there, Jason Grant met two UK-based woodworkers who started the very first company in the world to promote sustainable tropical timber, importing lesser-known species from community-based forestry operations in remote places like Papua New Guinea and Ecuador. These small-scale operations in the tropics were the first to be certified by the newly-minted SmartWood program of the Rainforest Alliance - several years before the launch of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).
Inspired by the UK startup, Jason presented the business idea to college friend Aaron Maizlish who was on the look-out for socially-responsible business opportunities. Jason and Aaron soon met Eugene Dickey, a builder and cabinetmaker who had independently considered starting a company dealing in “good wood.” The three wrote a business plan and raised start-up funds by pooling their personal resources with modest investments from friends and family members. They leased a small warehouse in San Francisco’s Mission district and, in January 1993, EcoTimber International Inc. opened its doors for business.
Their first containers of hardwood from Papua New Guinea arrived shortly thereafter: lesser-known species like narra, kwila, taun and kamarere. Sales, mostly to custom woodworkers, began slowly and grew gradually.
The forest certification movement began to gather momentum with the launch of the FSC in 1994. Now fully aware that its initial focus on lesser-known tropical species was not the path to success, EcoTimber brought on domestic hardwood products as they became available with the first certifications of forests in the U.S. In the fall of 1995, the company received an equity infusion of over a million dollars – including the first and only investment into a for-profit business that the MacArthur Foundation has ever made. EcoTimber pulled up stakes and moved to the East Bay, setting up operations in a 25,000 sq. ft. warehouse and 20,000 sq. ft. yard in south Berkeley.
In the years that followed, the company expanded on all fronts, scoring numerous coups on the sales and marketing front -- selling FSC flooring into Banana Republic stores and Gap headquarters, supplying FSC mahogany to guitar manufacturer Gibson USA, garnering substantial publicity. In 2001, the company and its then well-established brand were purchased by Hayward Lumber.
In 2007, EcoTimber was purchased by two private equity funds, Greenmont and NewWest. With these new investors, the company was able to grow rapidly and establish a nationwide presence. In June of 2008 the company moved to new quarters in Richmond, CA. As of January 2009, EcoTimber has 400 authorized dealers and twenty-five employees. EcoTimber has always been and remains today a leader in the forest products industry, breaking ground toward a more responsible and sustainable future—a path that, fortunately, many others are now following. EcoTimber’s current management and ownership remain committed to the original founders’ vision: to build a successful company that harnesses the marketplace to support sustainable forestry and forest conservation worldwide.