Have you ever had a clever idea, but had no idea how to execute it and turn it into actual millions of dollars? Well, Itamar Cohen, the CEO of ZIPIT, a breakthrough bags-and-cases design house, shares with us his insights after taking the helm of the company back in 2008 and has since turned it into the tune of $140 million in retail sales and a global leader well beyond the classroom!
Itamar shares his thoughts with us exclusively…
How did your experience in the IT world, shape your vision for ZIPIT?
Being of the Israeli High-Tech industry for a few years, it allowed me to work with world-class creatives and passionate people who followed the highest standards. When joining ZIPIT in its very first stages as a company, my goal was to bring ‘high tech’ standards to a ‘low tech’ company and create something unique.
When we visited the stores and more specifically the stationary aisles, all we saw were dull and uninspiring products with low price as the main product attribute. At the same time, words such as “fun,” “creativity,” and “innovation” appeared in large letters on the packaging of these low-quality products. This is when we realized that ‘white space’ existed and that our goal would be to change this equation by introducing cleverly designed, high-quality products that would still be affordable for everyone.
What was your key strategy to achieving your vision for ZIPIT?
Honestly, with no investors or financial backing, just our limited resources, we understood that to make our products affordable for everyone, we needed to mass-produce them and sell in the mass market. We were successful in getting Office Depot on-board as the first retailer to give us the opportunity to test our basic pencil cases in all stores. Sales that summer was incredible, and it opened the door for us to more and more retailers. The expansion to chains such as Target and Walmart came when we had proven sales and much broader product lines.
What do you consider to be your competitive edge in the market?
If I need to single one main thing, I think that it would be truly original and clever design; Originality and true innovation becomes more and more important in today’s world, where there is very easy access to production resources. I believe that this is probably one of the only effective ways for retailers today to compete. Low prices are not enough in order to create value for customers. Fresh, original designs are a necessity.
What do you feel has been pivotal to ZIPIT’s ongoing success?
I think that there are several things but first and foremost is a winning team. Without a doubt, the ZIPIT team includes one of the most talented, hard-working, committed, and passionate group of people I have ever worked with throughout my career.
The second thing that comes to mind is consistency. At ZIPIT, we’ve worked hard to stay loyal to our mission to create a real alternative to licensed and unlicensed ‘me-too’ products. This meant that along the way we had to turn down licensing deals, promotional deals etc.
The third thing I would say is the proximity to end customers. We work hard to connect with our customers by opening physical offices and joining local team members. We’ve also developed several unique methods of collecting end-user feedback before we go to market. This engagement allows us to understand better our customers’ needs instead of guessing.
And the last thing is Quality Obsession. We developed a very advanced-quality assurance team which allows us to offer a lifetime warranty on every ZIPIT product, which shows our commitment to the customer and our dedication to producing a high-value product.
You employ five full-time, in-house designers, and half-a-dozen international designers. How does your design team contribute to your overall mission?
ZIPIT’s mission is to encourage as many people as we can to celebrate their originality and believe that anything is possible. Our designers’ main task is to convey this message through our products and this I think stands in the very core of everything we do as a company. I also think that our company’s story demonstrates that mission and vision as well.
With two production facilities in China, how does ZIPIT cope with the current China-USA trade war and how does this influence you?
The current situation led to a 25% increase in import duties to the united states which affect the entire industry. This change, among other changes in the U.S. Retail space, require us as an organization to keep developing new capabilities. Our Operations team, led by our VP of Operations, Erez Davidi, anticipated the change, and over the past 18 months, sourced other production facilities outside of China. In a few short months, we will begin to offer our U.S retail customers additional import options outside of China, providing them with significant savings.
Final question: With over 23 million products sold and partnerships with over 40 of the world’s leading retailers, what is next on the horizon for ZIPIT?
Wow, quite a lot! The short answer is that we are targeting new product categories, as well as new sales channels, including independent retail locations. In addition, we’re developing several very exciting partnerships in different geographies that will mature in 2020 and will take the ZIPIT brand to the next level.
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