A Cut Above
Eight years ago, Terri Alpert reacted to a serious “holy crap!” moment. It was a reaction that set her company, then known as Professional Cutlery Direct, on a far steadier course than it might have wound up.
Alpert uttered the exclamation when she realized that, over a period of time, the high-end kitchenware catalog business she launched in 1993 with less than $10,000, which prided itself on exacting product detail and attentive customer service, was now being more or less duplicated by practically every large retailer from New Haven to Nevada.
“Things were looking good at that point, too,” says Alpert, founder/CEO of what are now two jointly operated companies, Uno Alla Volta and Cooking Enthusiast. “We could have easily rested on
In just a few years of existence, by the late ’90s, Professional Cutlery Direct had made the Inc. 500 list three straight years. “We had our strongest financials ever and had been profitable every year since our inception,” Alpert reflects. But she realized that things had to change fairly quickly.
So she set forth to de-emphasize Professional Cutlery Direct (renaming it Cooking Enthusiast and retaining the Professional Cutlery Direct LLC name for the parent firm) while introducing a new brand and company with scores of proprietary products that carry higher margins. Enter Uno Alla Volta (Italian for “One at a time”).
Today, the $20.5 million company’s two brands — Uno Alla Volta and Cooking Enthusiast — offer a variety of accessories, home accents and collectibles, all handcrafted by artisans.
Faced with all the same hardships other catalog/multichannel marketers are dealing with — expensive postage and paper costs, pressure from environmental groups, and so on — Alpert’s considering launching new brands, an acquisition or two, revamping the company’s Web sites, expanding the product lines, and potential spin-offs.