Portrait: Kevin Wu, Control Brand
Susan Dickenson -- Home Accents Today, 9/1/2013 2:00:00 AM
Kevin Wu is the president of New York-based Control Brand, manufacturer and distributor of classic contemporary furniture and lighting. Over the past several years, Control Brand, which shows in High Point and Atlanta, has begun to emerge as a leading producer of mid-century modern designs - some new, some familiar to collectors of the iconic shapes - in chairs, tables, sofas, benches, loungers, accent pieces, pendant lights, floor lamps and shelves/storage solutions.
"We love the products that we produce and the customers that we meet; we market furniture and lighting but we deliver happiness," Wu says of his growing catalog. "Control Brand is up to 1,300 SKUs, and my challenge is to double that in the next couple of years so that we can deliver double happiness every day."
He also operates and curates product for Kirch & Co., a clock company started by his father in 1982 in what Wu describes as "a smallish warehouse in a suburb of Queens."
Though it started out serving smaller independent retailers, Kirch eventually evolved into a supplier to chain stores such as Target and Bed Bath and Beyond. "Kirch is a wall clock company," Wu said. "For many years that was all we sold, and it surprises many of my friends just how many clocks we sold each year as it is such a microscopic category of product."
When he married, in 2005, Wu said his wife encouraged him to follow his own design aesthetic to create product "we could see ourselves putting in our own home." That eventually led Wu, a collector of vintage furniture, to launch Control Brand. What he says originally began as "just an experiment" now takes almost all of his time, and is something he truly seems to enjoy.
How did you get involved in the home décor business? I am a Certified Public Accountant by training and worked as an auditor in what was then considered a "Big 6" firm. From there I went to work on Wall Street as a controller for global credit at J.P. Morgan. In 1996, when my father wanted to retire, I left my job and came to Kirch to help wind down the business. I ended up staying on, and have been happily growing the business ever since.
What makes your company different from the competition? Most companies define themselves by their annual sales volume or profitability, and many define themselves by their brand and quality. I like to differentiate ours in the way that we run the company for enduring value. We highly value our suppliers, customers and employees, and we treat these stakeholders as our true business partners - keeping waste low and quality high while striving for excellent customer service. While we may never be the largest, we delight in the number of people we make happy each and every day.
Every time I visit the Control Brand showroom, I'm amazed by the number of new intros. Where does your inspiration come from? In reality we just listen to our customers and try to give them the products they are looking for. We see ourselves as providing a warehousing and shipping solution to our customers. Having a lot of designs in stock, all the time, at great prices, is what they want.
Who is Control Brand's wholesale customer? Our target customers are interior designers.
You mentioned there might be something new in the works? We found a small factory in France that makes natural objects of curiosities. While this may be like nothing we have ever produced, I was just awestruck when I saw the products and met the man behind them. There was so much passion in the products and each item had an interesting story. I hope to bring those stories to our customers and show the line in High Point during the October market.
What has been the highlight of your career thus far? Standing on the 47th floor at 60 Wall Street and looking out the window, which was above the clouds that day. From a career perspective and based upon my formal training, I feel I've accomplished what I studied in school to do. Everything else I have done in the 17 years since has been like a hobby at best - I don't feel as if I have worked a single day in the last 17 years.