Building on Innovation
In 1988, Trex invented a clever alternative to wood decking. Sixteen years later comes the reward: Mainstream success.
By Erick Schonfeld

(Business 2.0) – Sometimes, inventing a better mousetrap turns out to be the easy part. Trex mixes sawdust with recycled grocery bags to create a weather-resistant building material that's ideal for use on decks, porches, and walkways. Since pioneering the market in 1988, the company has grown from a scrappy upstart to a tiny subsidiary of oil giant Mobil to a publicly traded business with projected 2004 sales of $245 million.

Getting the stodgy home construction industry to accept an innovative new product was hard work. Over time, however, the material has become synonymous with the company that created it. "Many people refer to the whole wood-composite category as Trex," explains Jim Morton of research firm Principia Partners. The market for wood composites is now worth roughly $600 million a year, and the sector has attracted copycat competitors like Alcoa, Louisiana Pacific, and Weyerhaeuser. Yet, with 30 percent market share, Virginia-based Trex remains the industry leader. Here's how it built a path to success, one plank at a time. — ERICK SCHONFELD