Imagine it’s 1967. For some of us (like me) it’s easy. For our younger readers, well humor me if you will. Enter a man named Carl Sontheimer. Carl studied engineering and physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He also possessed a sound understanding of business principles. Skillfully blending the two together, Carl ran a quite successful business, Amzac Electronics.
Having just sold Amzac, Carl and his wife Shirley didn’t quite retire, but rather chose to pursue another business that combined Carl’s two passions: electronics and cooking. Back then, it was kind of weird combination. Regardless, they also liked travel and found themselves at a housewares show in France sometime in 1971. At that show they saw their first commercial food preparation machine made by a French company, Robot-Coupe.
The entrepreneurial wheels began to turn. You see Carl, having excellent engineering skills, was convinced that he could redesign the commercial food processors he had seen in France into a version suitable for use in the home. He and Shirley invested $20k (a LOT of money in 1971) and created their own housewares business. Of course, you know the name. It was Cuisinart.
Carl spent over 2 years creating his home food processor design. Always focusing on high quality design, he did things like improve and invent new blades. He incorporated safety mechanisms. He improved the way you feed food into the machine. Finally, by about 1974 he had arrived at a design that worked well, greatly decreased the time it took to prepare foods, and made it easy to clean up afterward. It was a robust and elegant design, ready for the US market.
Drawing on his engineering and business talents, Carl had introduced an early version of his food process at the National Housewares Exposition in Chicago, Illinois. That was in 1973. He took the feedback he received at the show and incorporated it into his subsequent designs. That was of great value in and of itself. However, Carl achieved something of far greater value at that show. He introduced the American public to a heretofore little known genre of kitchen home appliances … the home food processor. He planted the seed.
Ok, so he had planted a seed. Big deal you say! Actually, it wasn’t. Sales stunk to put it mildly. But here again, Carl’s entrepreneurial shrewdness came to play. He brought out the big gun of (insert trumpets from heaven here) free publicity. He got the famous gourmet cooks of the time to talk about and write about his Cuisinart food processor. People like James Beard, Julia Child, Eva Pomice all either endorsed his product or wrote shining articles in prestigious magazines like “Gourmet” or “Forbes”. He even got the New York Times to talk about his invention. Needless to say, that seed got some high grade fertilizer.
By 1975 sales began to take off. Carl build his sales momentum on the foundation of high quality and price. Cusinart became synonymous with top of the line quality. It became fashionable to own a Cuisinart, like wearing “Calvin Kline” jeans. Carl and Shirley owned the business privately so we don’t have any hard sales data. However, some industry analysts “guesstimated” that 1976 sales ranged somewhere between 150k to 250k units. That was a huge increase from selling only a few a month only about 18 months before. By 1977 Cuisinart sales reached $50 million.
If you can’t tell already, I really admire Carl Sontheimer. He embodies the entrepreneurial spirit. Think for a moment about what he accomplished. In about 6 short years, he went from just an idea to over $50 million in sales. That’s astounding! What impresses me most is his insistence on good design and quality products. Today, it seems, those two aspects of business stand second to big corporate profit and too big to fail mentality.
So, in closing, I want to say that I like Cuisinart small appliances. I have a cuisinart programmable coffee maker and a food processor, both of which I use regularly. They serve me well and I feel good about the value I received in exchange for my hard earned money. I think if you choose to buy Cuisinart, you’ll feel the same way too. Thanks for reading.
As a recently new single dad, Mike Rocha began an online business to help make ends meet. He loves to cook. Mike’s dad had a saying, “Some people eat to live, our family lives to eat!” So publishing articles about various new recipes, or writing a review on the cuisinart 4 slice toaster, fits right in.
Mike lives in beautiful sunny south Florida with his son who helps him with food shopping, cooking, and … yes … even cleanup, too. LOL. Mike has a dream to visit Italy and learn how to make Prosciutto ham.