|Headquarters||Lexington, Kentucky, USA|
Number of locations
|Carey Smith, CEO|
|Products||Industrial, commercial, agricultural, residential fans and lighting|
Number of employees
|Parent||Delta T. Corporation|
Big Ass Solutions manufactures fans, lights and controls for industrial, agricultural, commercial and residential use, including the Big Ass Fans, Big Ass Light, and Haiku fan product lines. The company's headquarters are in Lexington, Kentucky, with additional offices in Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong and Canada.
After designing a new type of cooling system for industrial spaces and warehouses with his father, Carey Smith incorporated the Delta T. Corporation in Lexington, Kentucky, to manufacture and install the systems in 1994. In 1999, Smith saw an advertisement for a "high-volume, low speed" ceiling fan made by a company owned by Walt Boyd in California. Believing he could sell the fans to many of his existing customers, Smith signed an exclusive distribution agreement with the company in 1999. He changed the name of his company to HVLS (high volume, low speed) Fan Company and shifted the company's focus almost exclusively to fan sales. Boyd's company secured a patent for the fans in 2002; later that year, Smith bought the intellectual property rights to the fans from Boyd.
By 2006, Big Ass Fans had outgrown its original location and moved its headquarters to a larger facility on Merchant Street in Lexington. During the Great Recession, Smith refused to lay off workers and still gave bonuses, albeit smaller than in previous years; the company augmented revenue by offering installation services for their products. By 2010, the company was forced to re-occupy its Winchester Street location in addition to the Merchant Street location and its research and development facility on Lexington's Jaggie Fox Way in order to accommodate its continued growth.
In 2014, the company opened a new division called Big Ass Light to sell LED fixtures. Big Ass Light and Big Ass Fans both fall under the corporate brand Big Ass Solutions. As of December 2015, the company occupied six buildings in Lexington: an 88,000-square-foot (8,200 m2) office building; a 44,000-square-foot (4,100 m2) research and development lab that is certified LEED Gold by the U.S. Green Building Council; a 165,000-square-foot (15,300 m2) manufacturing facility; a 98,000-square-foot (9,100 m2) manufacturing facility; a 44,000-square-foot (4,100 m2) manufacturing facility; and a 33,000-square-foot (3,100 m2) service center.
In 2000, the company then known as HVLS Fan Company initiated a marketing campaign with mailers depicting the rear of a donkey, a fan with a 20-foot (6.1 m) blade span, and the caption "Big Ass Fan". Although some postmasters in Georgia, Mississippi, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, California and Louisville returned the cards to HVLS as inappropriate, the campaign generated interest in the product. After numerous customers called the company asking if it made "those big-ass fans", Smith changed the company name to Big Ass Fans. Fanny, the donkey used in the ad campaign, became the company's mascot, and Smith changed his job title to "Chief Big Ass". The company's web site sells promotional merchandise with the company name and logo; profits benefit Colorado's Longhopes Donkey Rescue Shelter.
When the company relocated to Lexington's Winchester Road, residents staged protests of a 10-foot (3 m) mural depicting the company's name and mascot on the side of its building. Because of the name, Lexington's Blue Grass Airport declined to display advertising from the company in its baggage claim area. The airport later relented and hung a Big Ass Fan and a plaque near the security checkpoint. The Big Ass Fans Facebook page includes a gallery of letters complaining about the company's name, and in 2012, it began a YouTube channel featuring customer voicemail complaints styled as music videos. For schools and religious institutions, however, the company maintains an advertising package that does not include the company name alongside the famous logo.
Big Ass Solutions holds 149 patents and 134 patents pending and employs more than 75 degreed engineers. The company's first line of products included several iterations of a large-diameter, low-speed ceiling fan for industrial and agricultural use. These fans use airfoils instead of flat blades and feature onboard variable-frequency drives. Since its founding, Big Ass Fans has expanded its product line to include directional, oscillating and mobile fans. The company has developed a line of fans for air-conditioned commercial and residential spaces, LED light fixtures and controls.
Big Ass Fans entered the commercial business market in 2008, debuting a line of fans ranging from 12 feet (3.7 m) to 20 feet (6.1 m) in diameter. The following year, it began manufacturing fans in sizes suitable for residential settings. In late 2011, Big Ass Fans acquired Haiku Home, a manufacturer of energy efficient residential fans. Haiku models incorporate direct current, permanent magnetics and aerodynamic airfoils making them 80% more efficient than conventional ceiling fans. They held the top 10 spots on Energy Star's Most Efficient 2014 list. In 2014, the company added smart technology SenseME to the Haiku ceiling fan. Haiku with SenseME integrates with the Nest Learning Thermostat through a smartphone app. Big Ass Fans manufactures Haiku with SenseME in America. The decision to do so added 40 positions to its manufacturing team.
Big Ass Fans sells its products directly to customers. Smith retains private ownership of Big Ass Fans and has said he doesn't intend to take the company public. Since the Great Recession of the late 2000s, Big Ass Fans has grown more than 30% annually, with revenues climbing from $34 million in 2009 to $165 million in 2014.
When founded in 1999, HVLS Fan Company employed six people. In May 2016, Fortune reported that Big Ass Solutions employed 866 people in the United States, with an additional 87 people at its international locations in Canada, Australia, Singapore, and Hong Kong. Smith attributes that growth, in part, to the company's higher-than-average pay, which is 30% more than the U.S. median of $45,790 and 50% more than the Kentucky median of $38,940. The company annually ranked among the top 25 Best Places to Work in Kentucky for the last seven years: 2015 (No. 13), 2014 (No. 3), 2013 (No. 7), 2012 (No. 15), 2011 (No. 11), 2010 (No. 17) and 2009 (No. 23). Big Ass Fans maintains a retention rate of about 90 percent, far outpacing the national average of 63 percent.