A company with many copycats has its roots in Isla Vista and, Thursday afternoon, local officials and residents gathered to dedicate a plaque at the site of the first Kinko’s Copy Center, which opened 35 years ago in I.V.
The ceremony, held at 6521 Pardall Rd. on the same sidewalk where the company got its start, honored Kinko’s founder Paul Orfalea with a commemorative plaque donated by the Orfalea Family Foundation. Orfalea, who is also a visiting professor in UCSB’s Global and International Studies Program, spoke in front of a crowd of approximately 40 people that included UCSB Chancellor Henry Yang, 3rd District Supervisor Brooks Firestone and Lois Mitchell, executive director of the Orfalea Family Foundation.
During the ceremony, Orfalea spoke about the original Kinko’s, which he said began as a single copy machine set up on the sidewalk next to a hamburger stand. He also discussed his book, Copy This!
Orfalea said he got the inspiration to start the copy center in 1970 after he noticed a copy machine in the library at USC, where he was a student, and realized that photocopiers were not easily accessible to the general public. The store’s first incarnation in I.V., where Orfalea’s girlfriend lived while attending UCSB, cost him only $100 per month to run, he said.
“During Kinko’s earliest days, I sold pens and pencils out of a backpack or out in front of the store on the sidewalk by talking up passersby,” Orfalea said in his book. “I offered people specials and encouraged them to come and do business with us.”
Orfalea, who co-owned the I.V. location for six years, said running the business was not always as high-tech or as high-stress as it is today. As of 2005, he said, Kinko’s is worth approximately $2 billion and is a digitally connected network of more than 1,200 locations and 20,000 employees in 10 different countries.
“[My coworkers and I] didn’t really know how to run these machines,” Orfalea said. “And if we couldn’t fix a problem we had, we’d just go surfing.”
Yang said he was pleased with the turnout at the ceremony. He said the Orfalea Family Foundation — a Santa Barbara-based charity that contributes grant money to many local causes — has done a great deal to improve UCSB and I.V.
“Paul has been very generous,” Yang said. “He’s given major funds for the child-care center in Isla Vista, and we are so grateful to have him here.”
Orfalea’s book is an inspiring success story for UCSB students and the community at large, Yang said. He said part of what makes the book so engaging is the fact that Orfalea does his best to disclose his failures as well as his successes.
“His book is so down-to-earth,” Yang said. “[Orfalea] tells his us failure stories, which is what we learn from the most. Paul is full of failures, and that’s what makes him so real. He is also obviously very successful, and his impact is all over the country and all over the world.”
Jaszver Bauzon, a senior Global Studies major who attended the ceremony, said he is one of Orfalea’s students. He said Orfalea brings many of the qualities that serve him well in business to the classroom.
“His class is in a very informal setting,” Bauzon said. “It’s very simplistic. For our first assignment, for example, we had to write down questions on the back of an envelope. [Orfalea] discourages note-taking, and doesn’t like having papers everywhere. He also knows how to handle people very well, and he’s very charismatic. He always makes us think outside the box.”
Firestone said the sidewalk plaque marks an important historical event, and is a good way to commemorate I.V.’s past.
“This is a great day in Isla Vista,” Firestone said. “Sometimes we don’t realize that we’re seeing history. We’re seeing history right here today.” Firestone said he wants the plaque dedication ceremony to be the start of many similar events in I.V. He said he thinks the accomplishments of UCSB’s alumni should be celebrated throughout the community.
“My vision is that, as time goes on, there will be more plaques in Isla Vista, as more students here do more things for our community,” Firestone said.