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A company with fans | Pamdemonium
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A company with fans

June 2, 2010

Sometimes, in this hybrid new career, I run across companies or people I feel compelled to revisit and share with a difference audience. Maybe the business makes something cool, or the founder has a great story, or it has a name that is simply irresistible.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Big Ass Fans.

The company, based in Lexington, Ky., started in 1999 at HVLS Fan Company, for high volume/low speed, but changed its name three years later after so many customers remarked colorfully on the size of the product. It makes ceiling and vertical fans with diameters up to 24 feet.

They are popular overseas in hot, tropical locales that don’t use air conditioning. You’ll see them in the Dominican Republic’s main airport, for example, along with spots in Curacao, Brazil, the Cayman Islands and at least three dozen other countries that either can’t afford air conditioning or aren’t as obsessed about it as we are in the United States. Think airports and spaces with high ceilings and cross ventilation. A big ass fan can make the air move.

BAF makes lines for residential, commercial and industrial applications and got a mention in a column in The New York Times earlier this month The writer noted the evolution of frank language in advertising and product names. Carey Smith, CEO of Big Ass Fans, told The Times the company does have separate ads and product literature for aimed at customers who buy fans for churches.

Big+fan=moving air

At the Lexington headquarters, employees answer the phone with the full company name. I had to stop myself from calling just to hear them. They sounded happy.

“It makes it more fun,” Smith said. “It is always different.”

I talked to Smith late last year for an article for the 2010 Kentucky Economic Development Guide. The company hired a specialist in January to boost international sales, and outside of pastors and church administrators, the bigger issue is that the name doesn’t always make sense in other languages.

“The name is quirky and doesn’t really translate,” Smith told me.

And even when translation is not an issue, not everyone appreciates the humor.

A friend back in New Orleans told me the Riley Center, the big, beautiful and airy activity center at Tulane University, had installed multiple fans from Big Ass in its workout areas. The university flipped the blades around so the company logo could not be easily seen.

Here’s a link to an interview with CEO Carey Smith. While targeting customers far from Kentucky, Big Ass Fans shops close to home. All the fan components and made within 150 miles of Lexington. Fanny the Donkey is the company’s adopted mascot, and purchases of Fanny merchandise support Longhopes Donkey Shelter and other charities.



Natasha Lorens June 4, 2010 at 9:59 am

Loved this – Here’s a visual for you.

admin June 4, 2010 at 3:29 pm

Thx. I added the video link in the note and embedded the mag link in the text. I usually do it as a matter of course but was rushing.

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