As a successful entrepreneur who built her business from the ground up, Ragan Niepel serves as a living testament to overcoming adversity. Her life began in southern Alberta, Canada, where she endured a challenging childhood after being adopted as an infant. Her family was so dysfunctional that at 15-years-old, Ragan was placed into a foster home by her adoptive mother. Nevertheless, she remained resilient, and although Ragan had to escape from a turbulent situation, she continued to set goals and to achieve them. Today, Ragan is the founder and president of Econo-Chem, a maintenance products company that has been leading the industry for over 31 years.
With an eleventh-grade education, Ragan left the foster home at age 17 after being recruited by a Florida-based chemical company to pursue a career in direct marketing. As a door-to-door salesperson, she traveled to 23 countries, including Europe and the Middle East, selling a product called Spray Clean. She also began to learn a lot about manufacturing and the ins and outs of the business.
By age 20, Ragan had become the director of sales and was overseeing 200 people. Eventually, she even helped to build their team to 400 employees. Unfortunately, as she moved up, she discovered the company was not interested in adhering to sound and compliant business practices. She knew she could not remain an employee as Ragan’s mission was to make a safe, specialty product with a legitimate company.
With the goal of replacing all other cleaning products, in 1989, Ragan, used her prior experience to develop a product called Econo-Clean. She then founded her own company. Headquartered in Calgary, Alberta, Econo-Chem’s inside sales team has served over 30,000 customers throughout Canada and North America. The company’s sales concept is based upon the issue of consumers buying thousands of products that contain the same ingredients and then ultimately adding them to the landfills. As a solution to the problem, Econo-Chem offers an all-purpose concentrate where consumers can add their own water and custom blend their own products. In turn, dangerous solvents, degreasers, aerosols, and other specialized products are eliminated. As an added bonus, the environment is protected with a food-safe, biodegradable, eco-friendly product that delivers the same effective results.
Ragan is always looking for ways to enhance her business and to attract new clientele. For instance, she recently expanded her product line to start making hand sanitizer. She also takes pride in providing alternatives that can benefit her customers long-term. As a result of her commitment, Ragan was featured in a book called, I am a Brilliant Woman, by Karen Klassen; a collection of stories featuring women who have overcome adversities to embrace their own strengths. Dedicated to female empowerment, Ragan says, “It doesn’t matter where you came from but rather where you are going, and you can create that through your own resilience. Dream big because you can make it happen.” This is the message she wants to share with her own two daughters as well as the rest of the world.
Outside of running Econo-Chem, Ragan offers business consulting to various companies. Ragan knows the importance of strong inside sales training and the art of motivating and inspiring salespeople to reach their true potential. Ragan also took on the additional role of director of business development for a Toronto-based automotive software company called, Tire Storage Solutions. Not only has Ragan tripled the amount of clients they currently had prior to joining, she has also assisted in bringing their software into the International market place as a byproduct of her commitment to sales excellence.
Ragan Niepel, President and Founder, Econo-Chem
130 Bowness Centre North West
Calgary, Alberta T3B 5M5 Canada
Download the Top 100 Canadian Professionals magazine and check out Ragan's feature on page 64.