A Chat With February’s Profile, Mike Stopka, President/Owner of Design Toscano
We started going to the gift shows in New York and then Europe, and the catalog became much richer, not just with statuary, but be it brass from Italy and pewter from Italy and gift items from the English gift shows and French tapestry. The product offering during the mid-90s, going into ’96, ’97, became broader. And then we realized in ’99 that the move to Asia was starting. We started to move our statuary production to China and that really changed the leverage of the business — going from 50 percent gross margin and moving it up to 70 percent gross margin changed what you could do. And we started to mail the hell out of the catalog then going through the late 90’s. During this period too, I think we made Inc.’s Top 500 growth companies three years in a row. A far cry to where we are now. At that point, to profit wasn’t as major an issue, much more risk taking. We grew the business quite fast during this period because I got all this extra margin, so I could mail and get the housefile up [today’s level of 180,000 12-month housefile]. I was able to build this war chest of names by being aggressive, but not really emphasizing profit at this point.