I reached out to designer Joe Ruggiero President and CEO of Joseph Ruggiero & Associates, Inc. Joseph Ruggiero & Associates is a multi-media home design and television production company based in Los Angeles. It is dedicated to designing and manufacturing furniture and fabrics that are “kid friendly” and to make every room a room “for living.”
Ruggiero develops programs for television that are educational and inspirational for anyone interested in the “Best of Design.”
In addition to his Sunbrella fabric’s collection, Ruggiero also designs upholstery for Miles Talbott, casual furniture for Terra, wood furniture for Gat Creek (American made with wood from sustainable forests), decorative trims for Phoenix and bedding and drapery for CasaFiora.
Joe, how did you get into this business, what’s your background?
I started in the television business and wanted to go into design, but being a first generation Italian male; my father did not want me to enter the design field. The right opportunity came along when I was hired Ethan Allen. I started in marketing and moved to the creative director.
I moved on to Martex where I had the opportunity to work with two of the best: Hubert de Givenchy and Perry Ellis and marketed their collections. I eventually moved on to Home Magazine as Editor-in-Chief of Home Magazine and after five, years started my own design business.
In 1994, a producer friend and I pitched HGTV with a series that I hosted for the next 14 years. I launched my furniture collections in April of 2000.
What trends influence your business?
I look at all visual entertainment (movies, opera, and theatre) and what is happening on the runways of Paris, New York, London and Milan for color and pattern trends. My travels throughout the world have given me exposure to some of the greatest houses and designers in the world. I constantly refer to those experiences.
How do you decide what will work for your customers?
I travel to at least 36 cities a year to present my collections to retailers, customers, designers and the public at large. This is a way to get feedback and reactions and see what is happening in the market place. Fashion designer Bill Blass once advised me, “you need to meet and ask questions of the people who are buying and selling your products; this is how you build your successes.”
What’s changed in your business over the past five years?
The way we do business is different. I see the internet becoming very important; as well as the social networks to promote products. I also see the small boutique stores able to service those customers who need help. I see male and female making the design decisions, and I see children involved in the process. It is very exciting, but it is certainly and industry in change.
What’s the most exciting aspect of your business?
I love developing new products and themes. Every six months I welcome the development process and love working with the “young geniuses” who run and market my licensed manufacturing companies. I am very lucky to have these extremely talented professionals to work with in my business.
I also love selling my products.
Each one is my baby, whether it is a fabric, piece of upholstery, a wood piece or a decorative throw. It is so personal often feel as if I’ve birthed these products and want to be sure they have the proper homes.
What inspires your designs?
Every product I design has a family in mind. My products are both pet and family friendly. I’m also a firm believe that every room should be a living room. What good is a room if it can’t be enjoyed? Gone are the days of the 50s when furniture was covered with plastic and rarely used. Everyone, including our pets should be able to enjoy our homes.
What would you consider the five best tips to our readers on delivering customer service?
1. Listen carefully to your customers, what they want and don’t like. As in any business, the key is the customer and what they want. We must always remember that without a customer, there is no business.
2. Most important, a company needs the best manufacturers and suppliers who can deliver the finest products at the optimal price. You have to understand your market and find the partners to help you grow.
3. I pride myself in selecting the right manufacturers because, in reality, they deliver the customer service. My name is on the product, but the manufacturers must make the customers who buy my products happy. If they don’t treat the customers’ right, no one will want my products.
It’s a synergy that must take place between the three of us. Each of us has our place but in the end, we’re all servicing the same customer.
4. To have a successful business you must be involved 24/7. If you’re an entrepreneur, you understand that you eat, sleep and wake to your business.
5. You must have a passion for your business. I love what I do and am able to work from home. This inspires me to stay committed.
If you want to know more about Joe Ruggiero, you can connect @ www.joeruggiero.com/bio.html.
Lisbeth Calandrino is Associate Publisher and Director of Social Media for Fabulous Floors Magazine. Through social media and traditional marketing, Lisbeth helps businesses build loyal customers. She can be reached at Lcalandrino@nycap.rr.com.