William C. Ross earned his BS in Chemistry at Bloomsburg University (PA) and took his first job with Rohm & Haas as a bench chemist. After a short time, he realized he preferred his time “out on the road” when he would assist the sales staff with technical presentations. His career as a technical sales representative lasted 25 years and spanned several companies – most notably at GAF and Croda as US National Sales Manager. After working for several companies, Mr. Ross realized he wanted to be his own boss and do things his own way. In 1987, William C. Ross started Ross Industries. He started our business with a dream of bringing customers in the Western U.S. world class ingredients from world class suppliers with the highest degree of ethics, service and professionalism. The first office opened in the San Francisco Bay Area (Fremont, CA).
During the “start-up” days Mr. Ross was more than just his own boss- he was his own accountant, customer service and sales representative. About five years after inception, he hired sales consultants and one by one added the staff needed to process the increased workload. During this time, the company focused efforts on sales and marketing and utilized public warehousing for distribution. When the company went to incorporate, the name was changed to Ross Organic Specialty Sales, Inc.
After ten years, it was obvious that the sales and customer service functions of the business needed to move to the Los Angeles area, closer to the majority of customers. In 1997 the sales offices were moved from the San Francisco Bay Area to Signal Hill, CA. In 2004, we opened our first distribution center in Sylmar, CA and in 2005 we became members of NACD (National Association of Chemical Distributors).
One of the most defining moments in the history of Ross Organic happened in March of 2008 when the entire operation (Signal Hill office & Sylmar warehouse) was integrated and moved into the 40,000 sq. ft. facility in Santa Fe Springs, CA where we reside today. Months later, we faced our biggest challenge to date – the financial crisis of 2009. Up to that point, we had enjoyed 21 consecutive years of growth. We survived the economic downtown and became a better company through the process.
Through all of the growth and company changes, a very unique and special company culture developed and has sustained. With traditions such as Summer Hour Fridays, Massage Days and All Company off-sites/retreats, we strive to offer a work environment that is engaging and enjoyable. Whether we’re having our annual Halloween Costume Contest, a Swap Party, or a Holiday Cookie Bake & Exchange, we take time to cultivate more meaningful and personal relationships with our colleagues.
Over the years, William C. Ross’ dedication and devotion to growing the business on behalf of our customers and employees has been both impressive and inspiring. Now, thirty-one years later, the company has become more than he could have ever imagined. In 2010, his two daughters, Stephanie Ross Leshney and Erin E. Coulter, assumed ownership of the business. At the time, both were veterans of the company with 25 combined years with Ross Organic. In 2012, Leshney was appointed to the position of President and CEO; and Coulter to the position of Chief Operating Officer.
In 2017, the company proudly became members of the Azelis family. Azelis is the largest specialty distributor in North America, and top two in the world. They have a solid track record of acquiring “best in class” distributors and creating robust market verticals. With this acquisition, we are confident it will ensure Ross Organic continues on as the preeminent personal care distributor in the Western Region.
In 2018, Jesse Kreider was named General Manager, responsible for all day-to-day operations of the company. Jesse joined Ross Organic in 2014 after 14 years of experience in this market with Solvay, (formerly Rhodia). Our Founder, Bill Ross remains involved in the company to this day as a consultant.
Ethics and professionalism have been the hallmarks of this business founded 31 years ago. With a strong foundation, the proven ability to embrace change and overcome hurdles, the future is undoubtedly bright at Ross Organic. Our business has been our pleasure – we enjoy what we do and we hope it shows.