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BISSELL: A journey through time

From the first female CEO in the United States to current developments in pet products, BISSELL continues to find ways to grow and improve, while maintaining a connection with their community for over a century.
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BISSELL, a globally recognized brand with a goal to expand to all continents of the world, has not always had such wide-spread success. The Grand Rapids-based company has journeyed through time to become the well-known household name it is today, while still maintaining its local roots.

“BISSELL is in its fourth generation of family leadership,” said Trish Taylor, the manager of public relations for the company. “Grand Rapids and the surrounding community is a part of our heritage. It is our home.”

It is this heritage and community that Taylor mentions that has allowed BISSELL to grow immensely over the past century and be recognized as innovators around the globe. Innovation isn’t something that is new to BISSELL. It is something the company is quite familiar with, as innovation lines the company’s history.

The innovation started in 1876, when first ever carpet sweeper was invented and patented after Anna Bissell complained to her husband Melville Bissell about the saw dust particles that stuck in the carpet as a result of their crockery shop. Melville Bissell created the carpet sweeper and news spread quickly of its success. The first BISSELL factory was built in Grand Rapids in 1883.

After Melville Bissell’s early death in 1889, his wife stepped forward and became the new leader and CEO of the company, making her the first female CEO in the United States. Under her leadership, BISSELL was able to continue on and obtain greater success. New products were created, sales increased and it was not long before BISSELL was a nationally, and then globally, recognized household brand.

BISSELL’s innovation is not exclusively linked to their products, but to their continued commitment to the Grand Rapids community as well. BISSELL has not forgotten their roots during their journey. “We’re very connected to the community and we believe in giving back,” Taylor said. “We support more than 100 nonprofits in the area and our associates are very involved. On a recent Saturday, more than 70 associates and their families cleaned, painted and refreshed the Ronald McDonald House of Western Michigan and this week we’ll host the annual BISSELL Blocktail Party to support our local animal welfare community.”

The company has made a commitment to the animals within the community as well. As Taylor puts it, BISSELL is a company "full of pet lovers and owners.” This can be seen through a line of specialty products for pets and events put on by BISSELL, such as the annual BISSELL Blocktail Party. Blocktail is an opportunity for dog-lovers within the community to come together and benefits local animal welfare organizations. Dog lovers and their pooches were invited to attend on June 13, 2012 at Mangiamo! in Eastown.

“Finding every pet a home is a passion of ours and we’ve found that 38 percent of people avoid pet adoption due to pet cleanup. If we can encourage pet adoption through our great lineup of products, we are thrilled,” Taylor said.

BISSELL’s community involvement stretches nationally as the company supports PetFinder, Tour De Force, Lost Pet USA, as well as the Ronald McDonald House charities that Taylor mentioned.

BISSELL believes these local connections are valuable not only in supporting nonprofits, but working with businesses and finding great employees as well. “BISSELL is dedicated to providing innovative solutions our consumers need. We offer products that allow families to enjoy life and worry about the mess later,” Taylor said. “We’re in great company with other successful brands in West Michigan and the area offers flexible, smart talent.”

And as for the future? “Our plan is to keep doing what we’re doing!  We will continue to demonstrate our commitment to community involvement and we are especially excited about the opportunity to further assist local animal welfare organizations through the BISSELL Pet Foundation,” Taylor said.

Innovation does not have to rely on creating the most cutting edge technology before the competition does. Sometimes, and in the case of BISSELL, innovation can be found through strengthened ties with the local community and the willingness and commitment to serve.

BISSELL has shown that it is possible to keep local connections after a journey to global success—an innovative thought in today’s fast-paced lifestyle.  

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