Ostrem Chemical Co. Ltd. specializes in the development and manufacturing of commercial cleaning compounds and specialty chemicals.
Donald Ostrem began this Edmonton-based family business in 1963. Today his grandchildren, Ben Tungland, Erik Tungland and Sarah Tungland, own and operate Ostrem Chemical together. Don was a one-man show for many years and beginnings were humble. He would put on a suit to make sales calls, then come back to the shop, put on his coveralls and go to work. He’d change yet again to deliver the products before donning his suit to head out on another sales call. Eventually Don was in a position to hire, and the fourth person he hired was the man that would marry his daughter the following year, Roar Tungland.
Fast forward to 1987 when Roar was presented with the chance to purchase the company, which he did by mortgaging everything he had. Later that same year, it was struck by the infamous Edmonton tornado, which destroyed the plant. The future looked bleak, but with a name like Roar, you don’t give up easy. Roar went sifting through the rubble and found the company’s server. He dried it out with a hair dryer and within two days he, along with the help of dedicated employees, had the plant up and running again despite the missing walls and damaged roof. With borrowed equipment, outsourced materials and a whole lot of determination, Ostrem Chemical got back on its feet.
As years went by, the business grew and expanded into the building next door, effectively doubling the manufacturing space. By the time 2009 rolled around, business was booming. There were over 40 employees and more than 500 products. However, Roar was getting ready to retire and asked his three kids if they would be interested in purchasing the company, which they were.
However, Ben, Erik and Sarah face some discouraging statistics. Only 50% of second generation companies and only 10% of third generation companies succeed and remain viable businesses. The main problem is a lack of passion when a business is passed down. Luckily, there is no lack of passion for running this one.
Present Day Activities
Ostrem Chemical still focuses on chemical cleaning products today. We craft and manufacture automotive cleaners, degreasers, commercial dishwasher detergents, laundry detergents, all-purpose cleaners, and many other cleaners for farm and dairy equipment. Essentially, we focus on the same chemical solutions we always have, and continually improving our products and offerings to all of our new and existing customers.
While we have many products, you won’t see a lot of Ostrem Chemical logos around. We encourage our distributors to private label our products and create their own brands and marketing strategies. We do this because we want to provide them with control over the product. When an end-user runs out of something and needs to re-order, they deal with the distributor, not us. This ensures that the distributor’s marketing efforts don’t go to waste. They are able to acquire repeat sales based on their customer service and marketing even though that same product may be available under another brand. This ideology also allows us to keep a fairly small sales force and focus on finding companies that want to distribute and sell our products. It also allows us to fulfill the needs of our customers by creating unique and customized products for their needs and their customers’ needs.
We are proud of our company’s history, and its way of doing business, and very much look forward to continuing on in the future.