Entrepreneurial blood runs in Richard Cappadona’s veins. Add to that an admitted tendency toward perfectionism, and the result is Carico.
Cappadona was born into a family of business owners, so his lifelong goal was to build his own business. As soon as he got his driver’s license, he went into direct sales of cookware. Right away, he was a star.
But as great as he was at sales, his goal was never to be simply an excellent salesman for someone else’s company. He wanted to teach others by his own example, to help them become great by making them part of his own business – one that offered truly superior, unique products. So he took consecutive sales positions with several direct selling companies and learned the business from the ground up, developing his own ideas as he went along. In 1967, while he was still in his early 20s, he established Carico. Today, its products include waterless, greaseless cookware; juice extractors; food storage products; air and water filters; and china, crystal, tableware and cutlery.
China was the company’s original product. According to Cappadona, Carico is the only company in the world that has never discontinued a china pattern. Even today, that policy helps attract brides who invest in china that they plan to use for years, and they want to be able to replace broken pieces.
Eating, Drinking, Breathing Health
More recently, Carico has expanded into health and wellness products, including cookware for the most demanding home chefs.
Cappadona’s perfectionist passion for quality won’t allow him to produce just any pots and pans. He insists that Carico’s products are of such high quality that they live up to their lifetime warranty. He also requires that they have features that can’t be found elsewhere. He personally invented some of them, such as the built-in gauge that reads the air temperature inside the pan. He holds a utility and design patent on it.
“I developed that gauge on the Fourth of July,” Cappadona recalls. “Our original pan had a hole in the lid with a whistle, so I took a chef’s gauge and put it in the pan. I thought, if I can make a temperature gauge that goes inside the pan without touching the metal and calibrate it, I can have a unique set of cookware.” It took hard work and a large investment to make his dream a reality.
The distinctive cookware is made of surgical stainless steel around a thermal core that gently, evenly and rapidly conducts heat throughout the pan. The self-sealing cover and temperature valve complete the technology, letting foods cook in their own moisture without water or fats at low heat, preserving flavor and nutrition. Even their ergonomic handles are unique.
“I took clay, squeezed and played with it and gave it to my designers,” Cappadona says. “I thought, ‘It’s called a handle because it’s supposed to fit in a hand.’ Whether it’s a side handle or a long handle, it will fit into anyone’s hand perfectly. To me, Carico’s products are of such high quality that they live up to their lifetime warranty, this is common sense engineering and design. There’s something about street smarts and years of experience that lets you develop these creative ideas. When you put your passion for perfection on the line, you come up with these things.”
Cappadona is also passionate about juicing and uses one of his own company’s juice extractors at least six days a week.
“If you breathe pure air, drink pure water and cook food so that you don’t destroy its nutritive values, you’ll live a longer, healthier life,” says Cappadona, whose energy and youthful appearance hide that he’s nearing his 65th birthday. “In my opinion, the No. 1 thing you can do for your health is to juice every day – fresh veggies, kale, spinach, parsley, carrots, apples. You’re definitely going to be healthy. I juice every day and drink it on the way to work.” He adds, “I think that when I drink my juice in the morning, I probably get as many nutrients as some people get in three or four days. I call juicing the Fountain of Youth.”
Moving the company more deeply into the health and wellness market are Carico’s air and water filtration products, which Cappadona describes as the best anywhere. Advanced water filtration systems range from whole-house units to countertop and under-counter models. Air purification systems clean the air of viruses, dust mites, pollen, dust, mold spores, odors and pet dander. Cappadona says that customers have reported dramatic reductions in allergies and asthma flare-ups.
Revenues from the wide range of water and air treatment products have grown to the point that they rival the results from the company’s other product lines.
Healthy Income Opportunity
Superior, high-end products form the foundation for ongoing part- or full-time careers for the company’s sales consultants, who learn about the products and how to demonstrate them in an intensive three-day training program. Then they begin selling with a manager or sponsor who mentors them and shows them how to develop prospects and work previous customers by servicing their products.
A consultation at a customer home begins with an appointment – no cold calls in this business. The consultant reviews the company’s products and shows samples, finally asking the customer which products pique their interest. Then they demonstrate the products that fit the customer’s needs the best. They even offer a payment plan if the customer wants one. The most skilled, experienced Carico consultants can convert more than 90 percent of calls into sales. The average is between 70 and 80 percent.
Because demonstrations in customer homes result in sales so often, a consultant can realistically start out earning $700 to $800 a week. The average sale is around $1,000. Cappadona says that when customers get one product, they’re so pleased that they want to accumulate all of them. Carico makes buying new products easy. Consultants will come to customer homes, or they can provide customers with an ID that lets them order online. The consultant collects commissions on each order.
“The places you shop are the places that treat you right, give good value and call you when there’s a sale,” Cappadona says. When you have a problem, they are there to provide service and take care of you. Customer service is one of the most important parts of our business. So we bend over backward to make sure our customers are happy.”
Both service and sales calls are made by the same consultants, who often find that “service” is really an opportunity to better educate the customer on product use. It’s also an opportunity for additional sales of similar products or of products from a different line. And it’s a chance to ask for referrals.
Cooking Up Customers
Most customer sourcing is through referrals, bridal shows, health and wellness shows, and most recently, baby shows.
“One of our newest directions is a babies program – Baby Pure. We launched it about a year ago,” Cappadona explains. “We teach new moms and expectant moms how to keep baby healthy and safe. We discuss pure water for their formula and the importance of pure air in the baby’s room to reduce allergens and contaminants in the room. Think about how many parents bring their new baby home to a newly painted room. Paint contains contaminants, so does carpeting and many other substances in the home. Parents want only the best for their babies.”
The Baby Pure presentation demonstrates how Carico air filters reduce those contaminants. It also teaches the importance of healthy, nutritious baby food and shows parents how to prepare it with no chemicals, preservatives or artificial flavors – using Carico cookware, of course. Cappadona says that the cookware will pay for itself in a year through money saved from buying jarred baby food.
Carico works with organizations such as Lamaze, La Leche and several birthing centers to offer the classes, complete with cooking lessons.
With such innovation in both its products and marketing programs, Carico consultants have an opportunity for a healthy income. The company has a single-level salesforce, but includes the chance to advance. Consultants must prove that they know how to market products properly and effectively, and once they’ve produced, they have the opportunity to move into management. Managers earn the opportunity for management overrides. The company has top managers who earn $300,000 a year.
“One of the most exciting parts of my life is watching new people change their lives,” Cappadona says proudly. “We have consultants who came into this business with no experience. In some cases, they were in serious financial straits. Then, four or five months later, they’re driving a new car or looking at a new home. The success of people really motivates me.”
Healthy Economy at Carico
Cappadona notes that even a weak economy hasn’t reduced demand for Carico’s products. And it has helped the company recruit professional, highly motivated individuals into its salesforce. Recognizing the weaker economy, Carico also rewards customers with specials on some products and by including additional products in the typical order as a special customer incentive and thank-you gift.
“Even in today’s economy, our business is booming,” he says. “Health and wellness are never in recession.”
He notes that as people stay home more and entertain at home more, they become even better customers for high-quality cookware, china and cutlery. They want to welcome friends and family into a healthy, fresh-smelling home, serve drinks made with pure water, and offer beautifully prepared, nutritious food served in heirloom-quality tableware.
With a proud salesforce, superior products and innovative marketing that overcomes the weak economy, Carico is a steadily growing, solid company. After 42 years in business, it now has offices in most states and 30 countries, and its reputation for excellence is spreading. Cappadona believes in the company’s product line and mix, so he doesn’t feel the need to add others. He’ll just continue to make sure that any product that carries the Carico name is top of the line.
Longevity in Products and People
Founder and President Richard Cappadona likes to say that Carico is forever. He’s referring to the company’s products that last a lifetime.
But he could easily be talking about the longevity of the company’s staff and sales force. Many have been with Carico for more than 20 years. Maybe that’s because if there’s anything that Cappadona cares about more than his products, it’s Carico’s people. He says that the secret to long retention is treating people the way you’d like to be treated.
“I show them that I appreciate their hard work,” he says.
That starts with giving consultants top-quality products that they can be proud to show.
“If you’re marketing a product and you don’t think it’s the best, then you’re not going to sell it with your heart,” he says. “Our people are passionate about the products they handle.”
Then as they achieve success and their lifestyles begin to improve, the Carico cake gets iced with extra perks.
Travel is one of the things Cappadona loves, so he sets aside 5 percent of his retail sales volume for travel promotions. He treats his best performers to top-notch trips three times a year. Even the company’s convention is a recognition event.
“We just cruised the West Coast through California and Canada. In September, we’ll be taking a couple hundred people to the Atlantis Hotel in the Bahamas. And in January, we’ll probably bring about 800 to our convention to recognize them,” he says. “We not only pay for ground expenses and food, we even pay for airfare. Our convention is a recognition trip. The others are incentive trips. We have great parties and great times. We make the business fun. It’s like one big family. People even get to bring their kids if they want to.”
He adds that one of his greatest joys is watching new people succeed and come on the company-sponsored trips. Each trip typically has 12 to 15 new people who haven’t qualified for the trips before.
“Trips and travel are so special,” he notes. “At Carico, we put a major emphasis on travel. You forget about the money you earn, but you never forget about the travel.”
But what those travelers and other consultants learn is that the most impressive thing about Carico is the team. Everyone on the company’s top management team came from the field, and they’ve been backing up field sales for years. Cappadona says consultants frequently tell him that they were already impressed with management’s passion, attitude, enthusiasm and work ethic, but once the consultants meet the leadership team in person, they’re impressed all over again by how the team works as a unit. As for perfectionist Cappadona, that’s the attitude he expects. After all, he says, leadership sets the example.