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Profile for DaVinci Paul Orfalea

Updated on August 12, 2013
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Deonne Anderson is a retired Child and Family Therapist, Free Lance Writer, and Motivational Speaker who lives in Florence, SC.

Road to DaVinci Paul Orfalea's Ranch

orfalea ranch road
orfalea ranch road | Source

DaVinci Paul Orfalea's Home

stitch panarama
stitch panarama

DaVinci Paul Orfalea 's $25 million property

Orfalea Ranch
Orfalea Ranch

Paul Orfalea's Struggle With School

Paul Orfalea was born on November 28, 1947 in Los Angeles, CA, and is of Lebanese descent. His father and grandmother operated several clothing stores in Los Angeles. When in high school, he loved spending time with the store’s accountants and realized that he wanted to become and had a passion for entrepreneurship.

Paul Orfalea struggled throughout his school years failing two grades. He failed the second grade just six weeks before the end of the school year when his teacher discovered that he had been cheating on his alphabet exams. He did not recognize or know his alphabet.

When in third grade, he was transferred to a special school in Hollywood where he was the youngest of eight students. They all were age (18). He was age (9). He did not understand why he attended school with them but later learned that they were, in his words today, “having real severe learning opportunities.”

Believing his eye sight may be the problem, his parents sent him to an eye doctor who dilated his pupils three days a week and had him do muscle exercises. Yet, he says he still could not read. He remained at the school until he graduated from high school. According to him, his major in high school was Wood Shop.

Of his rocky school years he says,".......I consequently I didn't do very well in school. I kept getting expelled from every school in Southern California. School was like a hotel, check in, check out. Graduated impressively eighth from the bottom of my class of 1,200, and candidly I don't know how eight people beat me out for number one.”

DaVinci Paul Orfalea's $25Million Ranch

I'd love to play chef in Orfalea's kitchen!
I'd love to play chef in Orfalea's kitchen!

Orfalea's Disappointment

After high school Orfalea believed that he had two choices, to go into the military or go to college. He decided that he would go to college where he could flirt with girls and drink beer. This is how he describes his college experience. It’s so much better when in his own words.

“So, I decided -- I went to junior college and I went and saw the admissions office at USC and I learned if you want to be accepted by the in crowd you have to dress like a Republican. You don't have to be a Republican; you just have to dress like one. So I saw the admissions officer and somehow she said, "Well, if you go to USC Extension... that's night school ... we'll let you in." And my first class was philosophy 315A with Dr. Robb. And I walk in the class and there was kind of a visual cue. It was going to be an easy class, because there was a lot of football players and I figured they might lower the curve and I could get a good grade, right? “

“I walk in and man, I have all summer long, my pen, and I say I'm just as smart as anybody else, I can do this. And I'm taking notes. The man is talking in these words. I didn't understand what he was talking about, these big fancy words, and as if I was raised with Aristotle, Socrates, and Plato and I ...I didn't know these people from Adam. And he was lecturing as if I knew all this stuff and everybody's taking notes frantically, frantically. And I'm feeling more and more dejected because I can't even follow the conversation. And it was probably the lowest point of my life, because I remember thinking about what drug shelter I'll probably die in or whatever. It was just a really discouraging part of my life. “

Paul Orfalea uses humor to describe and mask his pain experiences. Can you imagine growing up when he did, experiencing failure after failure through no fault of his own and never knowing why?

He was kicked out of several schools, probably because of his hyperactivity as well as his Dyslexia. They didn’t have a name for Dyslexia or ADHD back then. Being subjected to eye exercises by a doctor three times a week and still not being able to read must have been a real bummer.

Being only eight years of age and sent to a special school of severely mentally challenged eighteen year olds must have been discouraging and self- esteem lowering. He says that he felt “STUPID”. No human being, especially a child, should be made to feel that kind of humiliation and pain.

The Birth of Kinko's

As a college student, he observed long lines of other students in the library waiting in lines to use the copy machines. He saw a need, and like a true DaVinci, reached out to resolve a problem. With $5,000 he borrowed, he rented a small space that originally was a hamburger stand …and Kinko's was born. The store was named Kinko's, as Kinko, for his curly hair, was his nick name. He had only one copy machine that had to be wheeled outside for use on the side walk because the building was so small.

Paul Orfalea, a man who failed two grades in school, was kicked out of several schools, attended third grade and graduated high school as one of eight students who were labeled severely Learning Disabled, turned Kinkos into a $2 billion-a-year company. All this while he was barely able to read, write, or sit still through a business meeting.

He attributes his success to using his learning differences, his strengths, his ADHD positive traits, and his innovative approach to business to mold a compassionate, unconventional, partner-driven culture that allowed Kinko's to thrive. Fortune, Forbes, and Mother Jones voted Kinko's as one of the best places to work in America three years in a row.

Orfalea’s Philosophy Of Business

Paul Orfalea realized his passion for retail while in high school. He spent afternoons at his family’s store talking with, learning, and observing the accountant as well as the owners. Passion is a necessary ingredient for success in business and for any other endeavors you under take. He valued his employees and customers highly. He had a sharp eye for opportunity to solve a problem. He encouraged his employees to participate in all facets of the business. He developed generous incentive programs to stimulate creativity. His employees, at every level, were encouraged to share ideas freely. He saw his employees as partners and co-workers.

Passion, respect, value for employees and customers, value of employee opinions and input, cross training of employees, and treating employees as equals are indicative of Paul Orfalea's business philosophy.

Kinko's had a day care center with one hundred kids at the corporate office. He said that he was proud of the great health and pension benefits, a program to help employees get the money for a down payment on a house, and a program sponsored by a group out of Minnesota that where you get the money tax deductible going in and the beneficiaries are the workers’ kids for the tax deductible education coming out.

About the education program, he said, “So, that's a college education at, what, 40 percent cost? One of the things I always thought was kind of cool is if you worked with Kinko's long enough we'd pay for your college education for your children. I mean, isn't that a cool benefit? And it's deductible. Why would I want to pay somebody after-tax money to pay for their children's tuition? So, anytime I could deduct something I took advantage of it. “

Orfalea believes that parents should be free of the stress of worrying about their children or the money to pay for the cost of daycare while at work. Kinko's employees' children were on site with their parents. Kinko's program to assist employees in becoming home owners is a benefit I have never heard of. I wonder how many companies offer such a program? Orfalea's college tuition plan is innovative. All of the afore mentioned benefits also represent his philosophy of how to do business and are some of the reasons for his imminent success

DaVinci $25 million ranch

Wow! beautiful
Wow! beautiful | Source

Paul Orfalea Ranch

Welcome to Orfalea's Ranch
Welcome to Orfalea's Ranch | Source

Paul Orfalea's DaVinci Traits

Let’s briefly look at some of Orfalea’s most obvious Da Vinci traits:

Da Vincis are risk taking

  • Paul Orfalea borrowed $5,000.00 to open his new business. He did not have a job or the means to pay it back if his venture failed.
  • Orfalea decided to go into the copy machine business when he did not even understand how to work the machines. In fact, he never was able to run the copiers or any other equipment after he started Kinko's.
  • Paul Orfalea took a big risk by trusting his employees. He could not read or write. Someone was trusted to do those things for him.
  • Paul Orfalea took risks when he opened or expanded Kinko's all over America. He opened (1500) branches with (21,000 ) workers by the late 1990s.

DaVincis are energetic

  • · Paul Orfalea traveled from store to store and was involved in all phases of each store's operations .
  • · Paul Orfalea is hyperactive, is always on the go and has difficulty being seated in meetings

Da Vincis are creative and innovative

  • · Paul Orfalea saw a need and came up with a solution to service college students.
  • · Kinko's was the first such store to open copy machine services on a (24) hour basis.
  • · Kinko's offered daycare services when it was not popular to do so.
  • · Kinko's developed a plan whereby it’s employees could get money for a down payment on a home.
  • · Kinko's offered college education assistance to it’s employees’ children.

· Paul Orfalea is a writer and has co-authored three books

  • Orfalea thinks outside the box – he does not want or try to be like the “normals.” He is always thinking of ways to make other people and this world better.

DaVincis are sensitive

  • Paul Orfalea cares deeply about his employees, his associates, his family, and his neighbors as evidenced by his generosity and love towards all.
  • Orfalea heads a foundation that focuses on childhood education, K-12 education, and youth development primarily around the Santa Barbara area.
  • Orfalea also heads a school food initiative.
  • Orfalea is very active in advocacy for children and youths with ADHD and LDs.

DaVincis are leaders

  • Orfalea was founder and chairman of Kinkos until he retired in 2000.
  • Orfalea is head of his family foundation.
  • Orfalea advocates for children and youths with ADHD and LDs.

DaVincis are non-conformist

  • Orfalea is not a follower. He dances to his own drum and makes his own music.

Orfalea does not want or try to be complacent like the “normals.” He challenges the status quo and looks for new and better ways of doing and being.

DaVincis are charismatic

  • · Orfalea is very warm and genuine.
  • · Orfalea makes those around him laugh
  • · Orfalea has a great sense of humor
  • · Orfalea is a charismatic and engaging speaker

Orfalea refers to his retirement as being "repurposed." He is now involved in a range of businesses, including financial asset management and business investment firms. Orfalea teaches at the University of Southern California, Santa Barbara and the Lloyd Greit Center for Entrepreneurial Studies at the University of Southern California, US Marshall School of Business. He speaks to business groups and to organizations focused on learning differences.

Paul Orfalea is a genius in the world of business. Challenged by Dyslexia and ADHD, he is a role model for us all to follow. He has turned his ADHD and Dyslexic traits into blessings and has made valuable contributions that affect how we do business and how we treat our employees. Paul has received several honors and awards and is very highly esteemed in the business, educational and mental health fields. Paul Orfalea… entrepreneur, teacher, advocator, philanthropist, humanitarian, public speaker, most esteemed DaVinci…I salute you.

Paul Orfalea on Education in America

"We hire specialists to identify and label disabilities, but we should be learning to recognize and support hidden abilities. To be successful in school, you must be good at everything, but to be successful in life, you only have to be good at one or two things. I recognize the importance of a well-rounded education, but some people take a roundabout path to get there. For them, school should be a part of the journey paved with small victories, not an impassable mountain of accumulated failures and dismissive labels.Many of my Kinko’s coworkers attended the Management Action Program. Among other things, the workshop requires attendees to face a stark – and often harsh – appraisal of their professional strengths and weaknesses. But rather than dwell on weaknesses, as most people do, the program teaches attendees how to focus more attention on their strengths. Unless they are dangerous, weaknesses are to be ignored or marginalized. Instead of obsessing over what a student cannot do, we should help each student make the most of his or her individual strengths, because you don’t make a difference in this world by trying to be the same as everyone else. That’s true in business and in the pursuit of happiness."

Deonne Anderson

Having My Say

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      4 years ago

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      5 years ago

      This is so cool! You have done an outsatnding job on this! :)

      This reading was inspirational, informative and boosted my rather low emotional state (at the moment) Voted Up ++++ and shared + tweeted. This should be given a 100! If I had anything to say about it. Thank you for writing this. :)


    • ladydeonne profile imageAUTHOR

      Deonne Anderson 

      5 years ago from Florence, SC

      Thanks for the read and comment. Paul Orfalea is a man I love and admire very much. He is one of my favorite role models for success. When things in my head get all scrambled as they sometimes do and I feel overwhelmed, I tell myself that I can at least read and research some answers and that I can write and ask for help.....that I have folks like Orfalea to look and live up to. Have a great weekend.

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      Bill Holland 

      5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I love that he struggled in school and I love his philosophy on education. Very interesting profile of a man I have never heard of. Thanks!


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