August 01, 2017
Carico International: A Focus on Health and Wellness to Stand the Test of Time
by Lin Grensing-Pophal
Headquarters: Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Top Executive: Richard Cappadona, Founder and President
Products: Cookware, juicers, sleep systems and air and
Take a look at the Carico website and you’ll be met with what initially appears to be a dizzying array of disparate products—ranging from cookware to mattresses and, seemingly, everything in between. But spend a little time talking to Carico’s Founder and President, Richard Cappadona, and you’ll soon discern a method behind the seeming madness—it’s a method that has led the company from a single man with a briefcase to a long-standing, privately held company that sells private label products in addition to its line of direct-to-consumer goods. The company is in a very good place as a result, says Cappadona, and has “very little debt.” Despite advice from others that “you’re not supposed to use your own money,” he says, “I sleep better at night.”
Cappadona started the company in 1967 with the express purpose of helping people to live a healthier life. That’s the foundation of every product that Carico produces—cookware, juicers, sleep systems and air and water purifiers. Quality is front and center. Cappadona’s perfectionistic tendencies pervade the organization, and his focus on ensuring that consumers are provided with the best has led to innovative product creations, on which he holds the patents.
In a 2009 interview with Direct Selling News, Cappadona said: “My goal was to be a millionaire at 30. I made it at 27.” Today, at 72, Cappadona shares that he also has helped others to become millionaires through his vision of being an “inspirational and motivational leader.” The company itself has achieved impressive results over time. In 2017, sales are projected to reach $80 million to $100 million.
Despite its growth and size, though, in a company video he says: “I don’t even think of it as a company—I think of it like a big, extended family all over the world.” And, the world has been his playground—as well as the playground of his loyal associates and distributors, called Authorized Carico Consultants. He’s joined them on incentive trips around the world to locations including Italy, Switzerland, South Africa, Argentina, Hawaii, the Greek Islands, Bahamas, Puerto Vallarta, the Canary Islands and one of his favorite destinations, Croatia.
Evolving to Meet Changing Consumer Needs
In 1967, when Carico was first launched, the world was a very different place, and consumer needs were very different as well. Half a century later Carico has been able to successfully change and shift to meet evolving consumer needs and preferences—something that not many companies are able to do. Also interesting, despite the 21st century focus on “all things tech,” Carico is not a technology company. The products it makes are basic products that meet basic human needs.
Cappadona has grouped those needs into five categories. They are: the food we eat, the way we prepare it, the water we drink, the air we breathe and how well we sleep. Like the apocryphal story of the railroads that have managed to stand the test of time by defining what they offer as “transportation” rather than “trains,” Carico has evolved from “a company that handles cookware, china, crystal and tableware to selling health and wellness,” says Cappadona. That’s an important distinction that, he says, “was a very, very good business decision.”
The success of the firm has really been built upon common sense, says Cappadona. For instance, he tells of molding clay in his hands to create the perfect shape and fit for his cookware handles. Others make “good looking handles” out of metal, he says, but he likes that his handles are comfortable—and natural—to hold.
It’s been keen observation, a seemingly intuitive understanding of what consumers need, and an obsession with quality and perfection that has served the company, its distributors and it customers well over these past five decades. He says, “When the word ‘Carico’ is on the product, it has to be the best or we won’t make it.”
Joseph DiCiacco, Vice President for Carico, has been with the company for 43 years. He says there have been a wide range of societal and consumer shifts over that time, and Carico has successfully responded to them, introducing products that addressed consumer health and lifestyle needs. For example:
- In the early 1970s as consumers were introduced to fast-convenient food and quick meals prepared in the microwave, sitting down at the table to enjoy a healthy home-cooked meal began to fade. Today, increasing interest in health and wellness has contributed to consumers being more concerned about proper food selection and preparation. Sales of Carico’s waterless-greaseless cookware have, accordingly, been on the rise.
- The Clean Indoor Air Act and growing concern about air quality has boosted interest in the need to purify indoor air. “Sales of our 10-stage air purification systems have soared,” says DiCiacco.
- Water quality concerns have also helped to fuel growth. Consumers want to ensure that the water they use for preparing and cooking their foods, washing and hydrating their bodies is pure, clean and safe. Carico’s water purification products have met these needs and sales have steadily increased.
- The International Sleep Product Association recommends consumers evaluate their mattress support every seven to nine years due to the amount of dust and dust mites that accumulate and consider replacing them after that time period. Carico offers high-quality comfort with its Sleep Systems mattresses and pillows.
DiCiacco credits Cappadona’s leadership for the company’s success, noting that Cappadona continues to take a very hands-on approach to management. “His loving, caring, devoted style has helped so many direct sales people who had very little when they started their careers with him.”
That personal touch drives the climate and culture of the company.
Carico International headquarters in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
The Personal Touch
Cappadona began his career in direct sales in 1961 when he went to work for Cutco, and he quickly excelled in the field. He rose from “rookie of the week” to the No. 1 salesperson in the nation at Cutco. At 20 he left to take a job with a competing company where he also rose to the top and, at 22, he decided to move to Florida to start his own company, a goal he had held since the age of 5.
“Ninety percent of our business is to the end users and not to the distributors themselves,” says Cappadona. “We don’t hire tens of thousands of distributors—after 50 years we have about 3,000-4,000 full-time reps.” Most of his distributors, he says, work their business full-time and have made a career out of their work. There also are many long-time employees. “Some have been with me 30 or 40 years,” he says.
Manju Torres is one of them. Torres is Vice President of Retail Sales with Carico and has been with the company since 1977. She notes that “many of our people have been with us for over 20 years, and that is due to the commitment and caring of our leadership.” Torres points, particularly, to the impact that Cappadona has had on the organization. “The growth of our company, I feel, can be attributed to the fact that Mr. Cappadona has a great commitment to the quality of the products that we handle and to the people that are part of the company.” Torres says that she has stayed with the company for so many years because “I admired the honesty and integrity that he showed, and I succeeded because he made me feel I was special and worthy of success.” Cappadona’s commitment to mentoring others, she says, helped her move up in the organization from a role, initially, as part of the salesforce to her current role.
Carico, says Cappadona, is “a real direct sales company.” Sales are personal and made person-to-person, in potential customers’ homes where the products are explained and demonstrated. “We’ll demonstrate the mattress, we’ll cook in the cookware for them, we’ll do air filter and water filter tests for them.” Presentations are done by appointment, but mostly by referral says Cappadona. The average first-time customer will generally come back to buy three or four times again, he says, adding to their collection of products.
Repeat business is encouraged through exceptional service and ongoing relationships. Distributors check in on customers over time to find out how their products are meeting their needs and whether new needs may be emerging that Carico can fill. It’s not a high-pressure sales approach, he says. It’s an approach built on relationships and high-quality products that consistently meet customer needs.
“We make sure that our customers are well-serviced and well taken care of because it’s not a one-time sale,” says Cappadona.
DiCiacco adds, “Our direct sales people follow a tradition that has lived for well over 100 years and continues to thrive today. Carico’s direct sales people are men and women of all ages, and from all demographics, globally united as a team under the leadership of a man who has incredible vision, displays relentless passion for achievement in all areas and has the tenacity to stay forever in this industry.”
“Ladies and Gentlemen”
The Ritz-Carlton is famously known for its motto: “We are Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen.” It’s a gold-star standard that drives first-class service. Carico takes the same approach.
While society has become more casual and “laid back” over the past 50 years, Cappadona still insists on maintaining a solidly professional appearance for his company and its distributors, including during the many events and meetings that the company holds.
“If you came to one of my meetings or conventions, the one thing that you’d walk away with is it’s all first-class—our displays, everything, is done to the nines. Every person is required to be dressed in a suit or tie or dress in all of our meetings. I’ve never seen such a well-dressed group of people because I think that’s important.” “We’re kind of an old-school company; we dress well and we try to project a professional image,” he says.
Cappadona, himself, plans to live to at least 100 and, at 72, he seems well poised to do just that. He’s been kickboxing for 40 years, works out regularly with a trainer, eats well, sleeps well and lives well. He may, in fact, be one of his own best customers. “I’ve got the energy of a 22-year-old,” he says. While acknowledging that genetics certainly plays a role in longevity, Cappadona stresses: “I personally believe that if you really focus on good health you can live a lot longer.” His passion is focusing on exactly that, not only for himself but for the thousands of distributors and customers. Carico has been “helping people live longer healthier lives” since 1967 and intends to maintain this mission well into the future.