Contractors, architects, designers and project owners are increasingly seeking out more sustainable ways to improve spaces. From the historic Brooklyn Navy Yard, IceStone LLC is changing the way consumers think about and choose materials for their surfacing needs. The company uses recycled glass, Portland cement and nontoxic pigments to create a cradle-to-cradle, sustainably engineered product that can be used in a wide array of applications.
The company has been operating since 2003, starting from scratch and growing into a successful small business with substantial growth opportunities. Jana Milcikova, president of IceStone, has witnessed the growth of the company firsthand.
“I have been here for 10 years, this was my first job after college,” Jana recalls. “I studied materials science and I really wanted to apply my technical education in a manufacturing setting. IceStone presented an amazing opportunity, the company appealed to me for a variety of reasons – its mission, sustainable product and practices and a social component that has been embedded in the DNA of the company from its beginnings.” She started as a research and development engineer and worked her way up. Over the years, she has always appreciated working for a company with a social and environmental mission. “That’s what kept me here for so long,” Jana explains. “It’s a good place, and a company I am proud to work for.”
Filling a niche
IceStone currently operates with 38 dedicated employees out of a 55,000-square-foot production facility in Brooklyn. Jana and her colleagues focus on creating top-of-the-line, sustainable surface products. IceStone has a distribution footprint primarily within the United States and Canada, however, the reputation of the product has allowed IceStone to be globally recognized, and installed in high profile international settings such as the U.S. Embassy in Moscow.
The IceStone team strives to build relationships with a variety of industry professionals, including architects, designers and fabricators. Over the past decade, the company has been involved in a number of distinct commercial projects.
“We did the 49ers Stadium last year in San Francisco,” Jana recounts. “We have created custom colors for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Starbucks and the YouTube offices in Manhattan.
A dynamic portfolio
The main competitors for IceStone are natural and engineered stones. The main difference between IceStone and other surfacing providers in the market is that their products are not mined. “This is a man-made product,” Jana elaborates. “Our material is made of cement and recycled glass. We are also one of the few surface materials that have not outsourced manufacturing. We are proud to produce IceStone right here in Brooklyn, New York.”
The company is also the exclusive distributor of PaperStone in the northeastern region of the United States. PaperStone is a nonporous surface that can be used in the multitude of applications. This unique material is made from 100 percent post-consumer recycled paper and a proprietary, petroleum-free resin, which provides a lifetime of stain resistance, and absorbs virtually no water. Add to that the fact that the material is heat-resistant, food-safe, and comes in a variety of thicknesses; applications can include countertops, cabinet doors, wall cladding, partitions, signs and cutting boards. In keeping with the mission of promoting products made in the United States, PaperStone is manufactured in Washington State.
As a small company, IceStone has been heavily focused on commercial sales in order to drive growth. “We definitely want to get more into the bigger projects out there,” explains Jana. “We have been actively working with architects that specify surfacing materials into larger projects. We also have started to bring on different products to distribute, such as PaperStone. We are expanding our portfolio for other green products in the immediate future to maintain this momentum.”
Marketing and networking have played important roles in the strategic expansion of IceStone. The company is a repeat participant in the Greenbuild International Conference and Expo, which will be held this year in Washington, D.C.
“It’s always great,” says Jana of the annual Greenbuild event. “As a company, we always make a point of attending this trade show. Overall I think it’s just a perfect trade show for the type of company we are. IceStone definitely fits the mission and focus of the expo. It’s exciting to be with like-minded companies trying to do sustainable work. It is a great event to meet and network with industry partners, as well as promoting the product to diverse areas of the country. Jana is looking forward to meeting these industry partners and seeing what is new in the sustainable materials market. “You meet a variety of individuals interested in your product,” she explains. “Everyone there is looking for sustainable materials, so you are constantly interacting with your target audience.”
IceStone has a commitment to the sustainable construction market, which mirrors its own values. The company is mission-driven, and Jana says that is one of the main reasons she has remained dedicated throughout her tenure. “I really like being able to work for a company that stands behind its mission,” Jana details. “IceStone is a triple bottom line company, with its mission focused equally on People, Planet and Profit. Employee empowerment is a major part of our everyday life, and toward that end, 10 percent of the company is owned by the employees.” The company offers competitive wages and benefits, and employee profit sharing, all of which encourages employee involvement.
As the business continues to fill a unique niche in the green construction market, IceStone LLC will maintain strong values, treating employees and customers as partners, all while working to advance materials research to provide high-quality green products.
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