The color in the lipstick you used this morning, or the decorative beads in the shampoo or the toothpaste you used, may very well have found its way to your door through the work of Doug Thornley.
Thornley’s Impact Colors, based in the Delaware Technology Park in Newark, has made its mark by purchasing color-effect pigments from manufacturers around the world, creating an extensive line of pigments his company sells to the personal care products industry. Its clients include some of the largest such companies in the world.
A color-effect pigment is generally made of wet ground mica, combined with metal oxide and subjected to high heat. By using more or less of the resulting powder, it creates colors that the eye perceives differently.
For many years, Thornley said, there were two major manufacturers of color-effect pigments: Mearl and Rona. The Thornley Co., started by Thornley’s father in 1954, had long done business with Mearl, acting as a middleman to bring its products to companies that needed its pigments, mostly women’s cosmetics companies.
But Mearl’s parent company was sold to the giant BASF about seven years ago,
and Thornley said he knew his company’s involvement would not last much longer.
Thornley, today the company’s president, saw an opportunity. With new pigment manufacturers popping up across the globe, Thornley knew he could help them get their products to market more quickly.
His approach, Thornley said, was
“consolidating the best producers from overseas into a cohesive product line here.” Impact Colors wasn’t the only company to take such a global approach, but it was among the earliest, he said.
Today, there are 15-20 pigment manufacturers in China alone, he said. Other major pigment manufacturing countries are India and Mexico, as well as this country, and Impact Colors does business with manufacturers in each of those countries, he said.
“We’ve created our own brand,” Thornley said. “We’re selling the color; they’re then formulating the ingredient.”
Although it doesn’t manufacture the pigments on site in Newark, it does have a lab where it prepares powdery samples and prototypes for industry to consider using in their products. There are shelves covered with jars of variations on any color.
The company has about 12 direct employees, several of whom speak foreign languages to do business with manufacturers and customers abroad.
The company can also take advantage of its extensive network of distributors and production partners.
“We come off as a being a lot bigger than we are,” Thornley said.
The parent company, Thornley Co., remains as a specialty chemical distributor.
Impact Colors has “done very well,” Thornley said. It made a profit in its first year, 2007, doubled its business in 2009, and doubled it again the next year.
“We’ve had very nice growth since,” he said.
The average person, Thornley said, will look at color and not think much of it.
But selling pigments means offering more than just colors of the rainbow. Impact Colors’ pigments offer satiny, pearlescent, sparkly appearances “that enhance the eye appeal of the finished products,” he said.
The company tries to not only supply a product, but show a vision, he said.
It works with Antoinette van den Berg, a color consultant, to offer clients an idea of what colors will be popular in the years ahead.
Thornley limits his personal use of most of the products to his role as a salesman, showing off the impact of the colors on skin. For instance, dabbing some cream on his hand, he showed off a Mystery Mix-theme 2012 color, a muted pink. From various angles, the cream looks a little more violet, green or gold.
Women, he said, use color as a way of making a statement, to catch the viewer’s eye.
Men generally don’t, Thornley said.
“We’re guys, we don’t care what we look like, take us or leave us,” he said, with a laugh.
Contact Aaron Nathans at 324-2786 or firstname.lastname@example.org.