SHADES OF SUCCESS

FOR IWOOD ECO-FRIENDLY SUNGLASSES, ACCIDENTS ARE A GREAT BUSINESS TOOL. 

By Patrick Dooley, Global Trade Magazine

Steve McMenamin says his success was “a complete accident.” He neededlaminated wood for comfortable, eco-friendly sunglasses, but when he arrived in the foyer of a nearby distributor asking about wood for eyewear, the receptionist nearly laughed him out of business.

Sixteen years later, Iwood is thriving—thanks in part to that awkward introduction. The wood laminator he was checking out had a lucrative niche: distributing to designers of interiors for private jets used by Hollywood’s rich and famous. The cackling receptionist accidentally caught the ear of a company executive who saw Steve’s odd request as a fantastic opportunity. It turns out the unused bits of wood were too small to be useful for the jets. Steve had stumbled upon a steady supply of the world’s finest woods—like Makassar ebony, zebrawood, bubinga. Steve used the cast-offs in the production of glasses he retailed through Barney’s in New York and Beverly Hills.

But Steve always had his eye on Europe. Fashion, he says, is “like the minors in baseball: You have to work your way up.” And Europe is the majors. After years on the domestic trade show circuit, Paris’ Premier Class would be like the World Series.

Just one problem: The odds of being accepted to the Premier Class show in your first decade are roughly equal to getting drafted to the majors out of junior high—unless, like Steve, you serendipitously bump into the show’s main organizers at a New York expo and they fall in love with your rare-wood sunglasses.

With their endorsements in his back pocket, Steve reached out to the federal government’s Commercial Services office in Indiana, home to Iwood’s manufacturing site. It was a smart move. CS staffers wrote the letter of recommendation that secured Iwood’s admission to Premier Class, and then gave Iwood a grant to cover booth space costs.

Iwood stormed Premier Class 10 years ahead of schedule. European Fashion magazines took note, and the glowing reviews that followed helped establish Iwood as a top-shelf brand in boutiques across many of Europe’s most fashion-friendly markets.

You’d think breaking into Milan’s Petti, the next great show, would be a lock. But officials from the U.S. Embassy in Milan, attending Premier Class, told Steve not to hold his breath: Petti, they told him, is for established brands only.

You can probably guess the ending: when he arrived back at Iwood headquarters five days later, an invitation to Petti was waiting on his desk.

So how did it get there? Call it an accident.

Advertisements

About Alexander Gordin
An international merchant banking professional with over twenty years of business operating and advisory experience in the areas of export finance, international project finance, risk mitigation and cross-border business development. Clients include foreign governments, municipalities and state enterprises as well as Fortune 500 and small/medium enterprises. Strong entrepreneurial instincts, combined with leadership and strategic skills. Transactional and negotiations experience in over thirty five countries. Author of the highly acclaimed "Fluent in Foreign Business" book and creator of the "Fluent in OPIC", "Fluent in EXIM","Fluent In Foreign Franchising", "Fluent in FCPA",and "Fluent in USTDA" seminar/webinar series. Currently developing "Fluent In ......" seminars and publications. Co-author of the Fi3 Country Business Appeal Indices. Extensive international business development and project finance transaction experience in healthcare, aerospace, ICT, conventional and alternative energy infrastructure, distribution and hospitality industries. Experience managing international public and private corporations. Co-Founded three companies abroad. Strong Emerging and Frontier Market expertise. Published and featured in numerous publications including: The Wall Street Journal, Knowledge@Wharton, NBC.com, The Chicago Tribune, Industry Week, Industry Today, Business Finance, Wharton Magazine Blog, NY Enterprise Report, Success magazine, Kyiv Post and on a number of radio and television programs including: Voice of America, CNBC, CNNfn, and Bloomberg. Frequent speaker on strategy, cross-border finance and international business development. Executive MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. B.S. in Management of Information Systems from the Polytechnic Institute of NYU. Specialties Strategic Management Advisory, Export Finance, International Project Finance & Risk Management, Cross-border Negotiations, Structured Finance transactions, Senior Government and Corporate officials liason

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Site Title

“Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.” — Maya Angelou

Museum of International Trade & Merchant Banking (MoMBIT)

chronicling the importance of international trade and merchant banking in the global development

Fluent In Foreign Business

Helping To Grow Your Business Abroad

Emerging Market Insights

How to make a killing in Emerging Markets without losing your shirt?

Ideas That Work @ GIDASPOV.COM

Strategy | Creativity | Innovation | Fundraising | Marketing

Nu Leadership Revolution Blog

“Helping Emerging Leaders Gain the Competitive Advantage in the Future"

Mike Z's Blog

Exploring the causes of cancer throughout the world

Bucket List Publications

Indulge- Travel, Adventure, & New Experiences

FranchisEssentials

Sharing Information, Insight and Perspective about Franchising, Small Business and Entrepreneurship

bizrisk.wordpress.com/

We Help Insurance Agencies Stand Out

The WordPress.com Blog

The latest news on WordPress.com and the WordPress community.

%d bloggers like this: