Out of the Box



Dusobox Continues to Get it Right 3 Generations Later

It’s what’s on the outside that counts — or at least, it shouldn’t be discounted. A lot can be learned from the process of putting together a perfect package. Just ask the Kelley family, founders and owners of Dusobox Corporation since its beginnings in 1951. Three generations have seen it through every aspect of its evolution: from the beginning as a way for now-president John Kelley’s grandfather to exercise his entrepreneurial skills through a simple distribution model, to its current status as a one-stop shop for consulting, designing, manufacturing and distribution.

Kelley recalls the company’s beginnings in Massachusetts, when his grandfather, Jack Dusseault, saw an opportunity in the extra boxes his then-employer’s clients had no use for: “He would have them shipped to his barn at home, and he and my mother and her four sisters would help load and unload the trucks as needed.”

Purchasing the boxes and reselling them, he eventually set up his own small manufacturing company near Boston. In the 1950s, he retired to Florida, where it took him six months to realize that “playing golf every day wasn’t actually what he wanted to do,” Kelley said. So he started again in Florida. Soon he had a 27,000-square-foot building and clients across the many booming industries that call Florida home — including a partnership with Martin Marietta designing missile interior packaging systems.

Dick Kelley (center) with sons Richard Kelley, vice president of sales, and John Kelley, president

New Technology

Systems like those require more than just the basic box, and soon Kelley’s father, Dick Kelley, and later John Kelley himself, began to not only expand the manufacturing possibilities but to consider the impact of adding design to their repertoire. Soon both form and function were top of mind.

In 1977, when purchasing from big box companies was proving to be a huge capital expenditure, his father bought a used box-making machine, bringing more capabilities in-house. In the early 1990s, when new technology was needed to not only offer more design options to clients but to quicken speed-to-market time, Kelley and his team had a solution.

“When I was growing up in the business, we measured with a tape measure, a straight edge and an X-ACTO knife, all by hand,” he said. “We were the first company in Florida to put in a CAD/CAM system and an automated computer-driven table to do all that. What would take a designer an hour or two by hand takes 10 minutes now.”

Growing Together

As the company adapted to meet new needs, its client base expanded and now includes some of the top brands in the country. Dusobox worked with Publix to create what it affectionately termed “the chicken barn,” a box that held 20 pieces of fried chicken and helped the grocery chain become one of the major sellers of fried chicken in the country. The company also partnered with a cosmetologist looking to build his own brand,
and he sold products packaged by Dusobox with such success that $20,000 of business in the first year has reached millions in sales in the past 15 years.

Dusobox has become one of the largest privately held companies in Central Florida, with revenues of more than $23.2 million in 2017. It appeared on the Orlando Business Journal’s Fast 50 list in 2017 and 2018. Partnerships and memberships with organizations like the Manufacturing Association of Central Florida (MACF) keep Dusobox involved in the community.

Along the way, the company expanded its space from 27,000 square feet to 60,000, but even that wasn’t enough to contain its growth. In 2016, it moved to a new 150,000-square-foot building in the same area code where the teams, both old and new, could work together in a collaborative and creative space. There, its designers, manufacturers, consultants and owners foster a checks-and-balances system for each other, ensuring quality control and boosting team morale.

From its experience to its capabilities, Dusobox approaches each client with an eye on the target, often partnering with marketing firms that are representing major retail companies. “We ask, ‘What is the channel you’re going to be selling to?’ We’re experienced with all the major retailers and what their requirements are,” Kelley said. “We then are able to guide the client toward a plan that will make them successful with that retailer.”

Lasting Work Ethic

There’s a popular saying in that 150,000-square-foot building: “Right first time, right every time.” Through every iteration, each generation has credited a work ethic that echoes its rural roots.

“I did a myriad of jobs when I was in college,” Kelley said. “I lived and worked on a dairy farm, worked on a commercial fishing boat. I learned very quickly how hard you have to work to be successful in very difficult industries. The dynamics of our company are very different, but the foundation is still there. It was my grandfather’s and father’s philosophy that yes, you’re providing for your individual family, but you’re also providing for every family you employ.”

Even now, as the company continues to serve its clients, Dusobox is pushing for ways to make its own processes and its industry more innovative. Working with an international company to streamline the manufacturing process even further through digital printing, Kelley described his excitement about “leveraging the strengths of digital and combining it with the strengths of analog. We are looking at a product offering that puts us at the leading edge.”

Getting it right not just once, but for so many years requires careful attention to both the past and the future. Kelley described it this way: “It’s learning from your history, but not being limited by it.”

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i4 Business magazine has become one of the most trusted voices for and about the Central Florida business community. Each month through our print and digital platforms, we provide access to meet, to learn from and to learn about some of the incredible entrepreneurs and business leaders who are shaping our region.

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