Denver-based Omerica Organic is all about the O's. And at least among the growing circle of body-art inclined folks cultivating stretched holes in their ear lobes, it's becoming the go-to place online to buy the body jewelry needed to do it. Made from beautiful hand-finished hardwoods that are decorated with inlays, jewels or cutouts and finished with beeswax or, for vegans, jojoba oil, Omerica's ear plugs all benefit from a human touch, as do the company's newer forays: Wood belt buckles and dog tag pendants. This company cares. Omerica head dude Ryan Lorenz, an intense DIY-style guy of 29, is a veteran of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq who's put all of that in the past. He returned to the states not wanting to do anything the slightest bit military in nature, and seven years ago, he started a business that's grown to fill a large RiNo warehouse space with fourteen employees, a cadre of modern die- and laser-cutting machines and a shipping department. Primarily an internet enterprise with a strong word-of-mouth and direct-hit customer base, Omerica is a 21st-century model of the socially responsible business: Everything that can be recycled is recycled, the shop subscribes to Xcel's WindSource program to run its machines and the business partners with the Nature Conservancy to plant trees to replace those cut down to provide materials for Omerica merchandise. Lorenz estimates that while he's used up the equivalent of only one tree per year, he's planted 700 or more annually in return.
In the shop, he's also switched from paper towels to cloth for cleanup jobs and has installed a Euro-style all-in-one washer-dryer combo that plugs into a regular 11-volt outlet to wash them. Nothing goes to waste: Every scrap of wood is used somehow -- to use for inlays or building prototypes. And almost everything, from the initial product design to creating the packaging, is done in-house, and that's the way Lorenz likes it. "I prefer to stay small," he says, adding that's it's all about quality control. "We're not the cheapest, but hands-down, we're the best."
Lorenz, it goes without saying, isn't your typical CEO. He's crazy good-looking and tatted and fit, down with boarding, and above all, he likes to be comfortable when he gets dressed in the morning. "I'd say that I'm a minimalist," he says. "I don't really have that many clothes, but everything I do have kind of works together. I like things to be relaxed and to flow together, and I go for a soft look, not a sparkly, showoff style. And no name brands: I prefer to wear something that has nothing written on it. That's timeless." But though he doesn't tend to wear brand names, he does study them. "One thing they do well is quality. Their shops and workers are skilled. They'll put hours into a piece of jewelry, and people can see that."
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Today, Lorenz is wearing a pair of rolled Swedish H&M jeans with paint spots, an American Apparel tee and his own Omerica plugs, mustache pendant and origami bird belt. The gold-rivet Sperrys on his feet finish the look off, and he's ready to go.
The next big thing for Omerica? New designs, like a laser-cut snowflake, are always rolling off the drawing board (everything is so self-contained that it only takes a few days from conception to a finished product), but eventually, Lorenz would like to move up into higher-end materials: soft metals like gold and real gemstones. He'd like to expand nationally, but not too fast. In the meantime, visit the Omerica Organic website for online shopping and information.