The Real Story

We love making beautiful hardwood floors. Real Wood Floors is committed to making the best wood floors in the business, and our company has been successful as a result.

But while we make wood floors, our real purpose is to work towards the day when every orphan is home. This is the mission that gets us up in the morning, and gives us the drive to keep growing, serving and succeeding.

Knowing your Why makes all the difference. We hope that our story encourages you to discover your Why, and begin pursuing a bigger purpose for your business, team or organization.

Clyde and Sam Cobb
Co-owners, Real Wood Floors

I glanced at the calendar on my desk. Just a month until graduation and I still had no idea what I was going to do. I was a senior at Missouri state and could see a diverging path in my future. One was the expected road, well defined and often traveled. Career, promotions, success - make lots of money. The other was more focused on making the world a little bit better by helping people, in some way. Living a life of significance.

Unable to decide which path to take, I did what any college student would do, I procrastinated. I decided to take a gap year and go make a difference and see what it was like. I headed to Eastern Europe to teach English as a second language. I made a difference in the lives of young people and helped them become more well-rounded people. I came back from my gap year with even more conviction. I loved making a difference but I also knew I had bills to pay and I wanted to be able to eventually provide for a family.

Now with a few more years perspective, I realize I was struggling with a false dichotomy. I thought I had to choose between the two, either does well in a business career or help others. I later realized I could actually pursue both at the same time. While real wood floors is definitely a for-profit company, we are solidly driven by our mission. We're working towards the day when every orphan is home. In the following pages id like to share with you the story of how we got here.

From the beginning

Let me tell you how it all started. I was traveling to China for business and my friend suggested I visit a certain orphanage while I was there. I gladly agreed I was excited to fit in an opportunity to make a difference. I didn't expect it to be a life-altering trip. I was blown away by the incredible work this organization was doing. They were acting as the last chance for some of the most broken children in China to find healing and recovery from their physical ailments in order to hopefully be adopted into loving families. During my time at the orphanage, I noticed the flooring in the children's homes needed some attention.

Being greatly moved by the work they were doing, I volunteered to replace the flooring since my company designs and manufactures wood flooring. 

But as you'll learn, I tend to speak before i think. So, when the orphanage director called to ask me when wed come to install the floors... I had to do some fast thinking. You see, we create flooring, we don't install it. I hung up with the director and picked up the phone again to make one of the boldest phone calls of my young career. 

I called one of our largest customers and, after exchanging pleasantries, I jumped right to the point: josh would you be interested in installing a wood floor in a Chinese orphanage? His response was immediate, uh, sure man, how much does the job pay? Well it pays nothing and, in fact, id have to ask you to pay your own way to get there.

Were donating the floor. I started to launch into a detailed explanation of how I'd gotten into the situation but Josh interrupted me, Hey man, yeah I'll do it. And I'll try to get some other guys to go along. I was shocked.

Here was a guy not only willing to donate his labor, time and travel but to risk his own reputation by asking his competitors to join in. Amazingly, he did convince two of his competitors to come along. Now feeling empowered, I called another client in another market and made my pitch and three more of our clients signed on to go, all at their own expense.

So, in 2008 we traveled to China with 10 of our customers to install wood floors in an orphanage near Beijing. It took a little over a week to complete the 9,000 sq ft installation.

Right after we returned home I received another surprise. The clients who went with us asked when we were going back. Again, I was amazed. I had stumbled onto a way to make a difference using the very same skills I used to make a living. I didn't have to choose between one life or the other.

In 2009, we went back to China again, and more than doubled our crew. In 2010 we went a third time with a larger group of clients and friends. In 2014 we returned with a group of 35 for our largest flooring install yet, and most recently in 2016 to do repairs on damaged floors. Every time we've gone, we've been able to make more of a difference than the time before and more than I ever thought possible.

Shepherd’s Field

Children’s Village 2008

Our first project installing wood flooring in an orphanage. We traveled to China with 10 of our customers in what would become a defining experience for our company.

Shepherd’s Field

Children’s Village Cafeteria 2009

Our second trip to China to work with the team at Shepherd’s Field. For this trip we produced and installed wood floors for their new cafeteria and school along with a team of 11 customers.

Shepherd’s Field

Children’s Village 2010

The third installment of the flooring project at the orphanage required us to remove some problem floors in the original homes and replace them with new walnut flooring. This time we took a larger team of 19 employees and customers. Two families from this trip later adopted multiple special needs children.

Bethlehem Christian Academy

George, Zambia

In the spring of 2015, we partnered with another local Missouri business to build two additional school buildings for Bethlehem Christian Academy in George, Zambia. We were excited to be a part of it and gladly sent some of our team members to join the building crew. We love the vision of BCA and how their presence is such a light and helping hand to the community of George. Their work is offering hope for the orphaned and destitute children of Zambia.

Shepherd’s Field

Children’s Village 2014

The vocational training facility at Shepherd’s Field was finally ready for flooring. We had to pull together our largest team yet in order to accomplish this huge task. 35 of our clients responded to the call and with their incredible efforts we were able to install 26,000 sqft of flooring in 4.5 days. It was a true joy to see the team pull this off.

You Have To Start Somewhere

Our company’s stated purpose is to work until the day when every orphan is home, and intentionally being a part of the solution to make that happen. And although we’re beginning to ask the question ‘What will it take to get there?’, today we can hardly quantify all the resources, nuances and strategies it will take. 

And yet, as the saying goes, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. I can remember way back in our first year as a company writing our first check to an orphan care organization. It was just $35. It was almost embarrassing in some ways what a meager contribution it was.

Clyde Elbrecht
Asia’s Hope - Prek Eng, Cambodia

Once our company had defined its existence to help every orphan find a home, I knew the end was so far out in the distance that we had to establish some mile markers to remind us that progress was happening.

From that early vantage point it was hard to imagine a day when we’d see several hundred thousand dollars annually going out to help orphan children all over the world find caring families, and yet, that’s what we’re doing today while looking forward with excitement and anticipation for what is still to come.

On any journey, and particularly long journeys, you have to identify and celebrate progress along the way. Mile markers that signify that while there is a long way to go, we’re getting further down the road every day.

One day I called the team to the conference table and gave them this hypothetical situation: “Pretend with me that we’re at the end of the fiscal year and we have an extra $200,000. It’s your job to give it away. What would you do with it?”

The first surprise was everyone gave some or all of it to orphan care. That was the point at which I knew the team had bought into the mission as a whole. But the more interesting part of the conversation was when I realized that they had put forth detailed and specific thought to it. The fruit of that conversation was an understanding that orphans need help at several different points of their journeys.

First there are kids who have been abandoned and they need someone to swoop in and provide for their basic needs as quickly as possible. 

Second you have kids who’ve had their physical needs met but are still in need of a forever family, people to raise and care for them as only a family can. And lastly there are some kids who grow into young adulthood and are never adopted. How can we still provide a better opportunity for them through educational or vocational training?

I was blown away by how systematically the team had assessed the plight of the orphan. What came out of that conversation was our first mile marker, a strategic initiative we call 10x10x10.

10x10x10

Strategic Initiative

By 2020 we are commited to funding and/or building 10 orphan care facilities. These facilities can be homes, schools, training centers, or medical care facilties.

Additionally, we want to help fund 100 adoptions for severely at risk kids, children with situations in which their survival is in question if they are not adopted.

Finally, we are committed to providing an education or vocational training for 1,000 orphans who had never found a forever family, so that they can lead healthy, independent lives.

Now as we’ve started to quantify the sort of resources it will take to have a significant impact, we know it will require tens of millions of dollars a year. But that is how faith grows. We’re excited about where we are today but we know we have a long way to go and are unwavering in our commitment to achieving this task before us.

Real Wood Floors does not employ people just to accomplish tasks.

Our pursuit as a company is not merely profit. Rather we are on a journey to fulfill a purpose and invite men and women to join us in that pursuit.

We are working towards the day when every orphan is home. In that pursuit, we will innovate, embrace challenge, remain mission-minded and have fun.