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Customer service is one area where small businesses can beat big-box competitors
2009 revenue: $1.2 million
Estimated 2010 revenue: $1.1 million
When husband and wife Eric Kaster, 40, and Sattie Clark, 45, wanted to start a metalworking shop, Clark says they asked themselves: "Can we start a business that uses resources that are readily available in our community and therefore keep stuff out of the landfill and keep stuff from getting shipped all over the globe?" Eleek, which manufactures lighting, sinks, and other home fixtures, is their answer. Founded in 2000, the company hopes to catalyze a "local manufacturing" movement akin to local food, whereby manufacturers reuse scrap material discarded in their communities. Clark says scrap metal is often shipped to China, melted down, and shipped back to the U.S. for use. The pair—who work out of an 8,000-square-foot Portland, Ore., workshop—use nearly all recycled materials. Eleek has also partnered with a local nonprofit called the ReBuilding Center, which salvages reusable building materials.