A Chat With February’s Profile, Mike Stopka, President/Owner of Design Toscano
Then 2001 came along and I was overmailed and overextended. I realized I needed to work the balance sheet instead of just trying to grow the business. The top line’s fun to grow, but I realized you have to make money. We slowed up prospecting, kept it flat, and started making some decent money. During this period we’ve been quite good at going to Asia. Since we were working so closely with the statuary company in Chicago we were pseudo-manufacturers. We’re not like a normal cataloger where they just pick merchandise. A lot of our products were developed from scratch. We had to help them run the factory because we were maxing them out. So when we went to China it wasn’t that we were just picking. We could develop products, we could develop furniture from Indonesia and China because we were pseudo-manufacturers and developers. When I say China, it also included Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, but of course China’s the bulk of your imports at this point. We had a much more unusual spin than most catalogers in that we had this capability which made the products. By de facto we’re about 90 percent exclusive. Out of that exclusive, probably 30 percent of those products have been developed by us. The other percentages we find vendors who aren’t in the U.S. market, they’re in Europe or they don’t have U.S. reps. So you won’t find our products in anybody else’s catalog or Web site.