A six-figure-corporate-paycheck job with benefits is considered the measure of success for many. For Maxim Weitzman and Daniel Bittner, that wasn’t enough. Where other executives would sit and work comfortably on their laurels, Weitzman and Bittner walked away from their corporate jobs and followed the path of entrepreneurship less traveled. And for them, it has made all the difference with their business, Concept II Cosmetics.
Weitzman and Bittner met in Los Angeles and became friends at the University of California, Los Angeles’ Anderson School of Management. After graduation, each found rewarding corporate jobs. Bittner was hired by L’Oreal Cosmetics and Weitzman worked at several tech firms including IBM and founded his own tech firm Intrigo.
“We stayed in contact. Started our own families. But we wanted to start our own business and we were willing to take a downgrade in our financial position to make it happen,” recalled Weitzman.
One of the fastest ways to get into your own business is to purchase one already in operation. Miami appeared to offer great opportunity and the climate appealed to their lifestyles so the two business partners began their search.
Weitzman admitted the search was not an easy one and it took time. Two years to be exact.
“We were not looking for a specific company or industry. We looked at a wide range of companies for sale that included everything from technology to recycling but we did not find one that fit our profile of potential,” said Weitzman.
The partners changed their tactics. They began looking at companies not for sale but could be gotten under the right conditions. Soon, they found what they were looking for.
“We found a cosmetic company in Miami where the original owner had grown it to a level he was comfortable and satisfied with. We recognized the potential, bought it, and then brought it to the next level.”
Founded in 1988, Concept II Cosmetics, LLC had an established reputation as a manufacturer of body mists, moisturizing hand and body lotions, deodorants, and perfumes. The company was exporting to a little more than two dozen countries. With Bittner’s experience in cosmetics and production, and Weitzman’s knowledge of technology and branding, the business purchase made perfect sense.
To help grow their cosmetic business, the partners turned to Miami’s Export Assistance Center for help. Working with the counseling services there, the partners were able to be part of an overseas trade mission and receive a State Trade and Export Promotion (STEP) grant to help with marketing their business.
“Daniel and Maxim took advantage of a STEP grant managed by Enterprise Florida and funded by the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of International Trade. It’s designed to assist small businesses enter and succeed in the international marketplace,” said SBA Regional Manager Export Assistance Programs Mary Hernandez. “This resource and others have allowed their company to expand to new markets. We have a continuing dialogue and Concept II Cosmetics are weighing other export assistance programs such as export financing that can help them grow more.”
Since purchasing the company in July 2011, Weitzman and Bittner have opened the doors to new customers in more than 55 countries, more than double the number of countries the company previously reached. They’ve grown their employee workforce from nine positions to 25-30, depending on demand.
But with 90 percent of their product going overseas, Weitzman said the company isn’t done growing.
“Overseas markets recognize the value and quality of our cosmetics that carry a Made-In-USA quality seal. We see a window of opportunity, and with some innovation, we are entering the American market with an every-day, moisturizing lotion with SPF protection,” said Weitzman.
Entrepreneurs and small business owners can learn a few lessons from these friends who chose a riskier path, less traveled.
“You have to be realistic with your time and money you think it will take to start your business. Plan on twice as much money and time. That’s reality.” said Weitzman.
Opening your doors to new markets overseas can help your business grow to the next level and beyond like it did for Concept II Cosmetics. Discover the resources at the U.S. Export Assistance Center near you and learn how.