Focus on yourself, not on what others around you are doing. It should really go without saying, but focus your thoughts and energy on being the best company that you can be, and not on what competitors or those around you are doing. I learned that early on in my career when we introduced a new product that was closely inspired by other products in the market. That product was dead on arrival — an expensive, but very valuable lesson to always innovate and never try to mimic someone else.
As part of my series about companies who are helping to battle climate change, I had the pleasure of interviewing Iwan Nassimi, Executive Vice President of Nassimi.
Iwan spearheads Nassimi’s sales and marketing. Always focused on maintaining cohesive brand integrity and a cohesive customer experience, Iwan is intimately involved in defining the product mix, day-to-day interaction with key customers, as well as overall management. Iwan stems from a family of respected textile merchants, and is passionate about finding the intersection of craft, design and technology.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Simple answer really… We are a family business, of which I am the third generation. Fortunately, I have been very passionate about this business and industry since I was young. As a child, I loved hanging around my father’s office, rummaging through the sample library to see which exciting new fabrics and designs there were. In the summers, I earned some spare change by cutting samples and sending them out to clients all around the world.
What is the mission of your company? What problems are you aiming to solve?
Nassimi manufactures performance upholstery materials. As such, our mission is to provide thoughtfully designed, durable and sustainable products that will elevate any interior design setting, even after many years of use. We want to make the design process hassle and worry free.
Can you tell our readers about the initiatives that you or your company are taking to address climate change or sustainability? Can you give an example for each?
As part of our mission, we aim to provide better products, in every sense of the word. That includes better design, better performance, and of equal importance, better environmental properties. As part of that, we focus on several different areas:
- Product make-up: We are continuously looking for ways to reduce the environmental impact of our products, without sacrificing the performance. We were the first company in our industry to reduce harmful phthalates from our faux leathers, long before there were any regulatory requirements to do so. Our entire product line is free of flame-retardant chemicals (which were the industry norm for a long time) and free of biocides (antibacterial & antimicrobial chemicals). Our most recent introduction, Supreen Liquid Barrier Fabrics, offers exceptional stain resistance without the use of harmful PFCs or PFOAs.
- Production improvements: We work closely with our production partners to improve the way our products are made. We have been able to reduce the amount of water used in production by installing water reclamation and recycling facilities. In one of our manufacturing sites, we have introduced a unique air flow system to eliminate the need for heating or cooling, as well as light panels in the roof, which reduce electricity usage for lighting by over 80%. We have pioneered new ways to produce faux leathers, without the use of harmful solvents.
- Transparency: Just like we hold ourselves and our production partners to a high standard, we invite our customers to hold us to an even higher standard. We have established benchmark data in the areas of energy consumption, water consumption, and chemicals of high concern, and we share this information freely with our customers (via HPDs and otherwise).
- Durability: It is our belief that environmental stewardship begins with less and more mindful consumption. In order to facilitate that, we aim to provide well-designed and well-produced products that stand the test of time from both an aesthetic and durability standpoint.
How would you articulate how a business can become more profitable by being more sustainable and more environmentally conscious? Can you share a story or example?
Our primary motivation for being environmentally responsible has never been increased profitability. We believe in simply doing what’s right, in addition to inspiring others to be thoughtful about their businesses. That said, we have recognized that there is a yearning for honest environmental stewardship. People respect and gravitate to companies that act responsibly. Making products in a more sustainable way is not necessarily more expensive, but does require effort and attention to detail.
In one recent instance, a large furniture manufacturer had requested their fabric supplier to analyze the make-up of their products and reformulate them to remove chemicals of concern. When that supplier failed to respond, the furniture company approached us instead, requesting the creation of a more sustainable upholstery fabric, without sacrificing the material’s performance. The furniture company trusted that we would be able to do so, because we had demonstrated a history of (self-motivated) product improvements. This is just one instance in which our philosophy of sustainability has helped us gain increased business and profitability.
The youth led climate strikes of September 2019 showed an impressive degree of activism and initiative by young people on behalf of climate change. This was great, and there is still plenty that needs to be done. In your opinion, what are 5 things parents should do to inspire the next generation to become engaged in sustainability and the environmental movement? Please give a story or an example for each.
As a dad to three young children, I try to instill a sense of awareness and responsibility in them. Here are some things that I try to teach them:
· Educate yourself (and don’t rely solely on social media for information).
· Be an upstander. Stand up for what’s right, regardless of what the popular opinion is.
· Buy less, buy better. I try to teach my children not to over consume, whether it’s with toys, clothes, or anything else. It’s better to buy fewer things of better quality.
· Know where your food comes from and opt for better. It’s important to know the difference between conventional and organic/sustainable agriculture.
· Get involved! If you believe in something, get active, whether it’s in school or in the community.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
- It’s cool to work in a family business. Early in my career, I was reticent about working in a family business. For one, it was a seemingly less-respected career path than working for a large corporation, or less adventurous than joining a start-up. More importantly, I had to prove (mostly to myself) that I was not lying in a made bed. Over time, my attitude towards being a part of a family business has changed. It is equal parts privilege and responsibility. I have the privilege of benefitting from the good name that those before me have built, but likewise the responsibility to live up to that good name, to continue to evolve the business for continued success, and to build a framework for the next generation.
- You don’t need to be a tech company to be innovative. I came of age in the dot-com era, when many of my peers started their careers at tech companies. By contrast, the textile business seemed ancient and anything but innovative. Over the years, however, I’ve learned that any business will benefit from the type of thinking that makes the great tech companies great: 1) questioning the status quo; 2) always keeping the customer and the customer experience in mind; and 3) maintaining a spirit of innovation that permeates all areas of the business — design, product development, and customer service.
- Focus on yourself, not on what others around you are doing. It should really go without saying, but focus your thoughts and energy on being the best company that you can be, and not on what competitors or those around you are doing. I learned that early on in my career when we introduced a new product that was closely inspired by other products in the market. That product was dead on arrival — an expensive, but very valuable lesson to always innovate and never try to mimic someone else.
- Know your why. With ‘youthful ambition,’ it is easy to want to do it all — to seek out every opportunity and to follow every fad. With time, you start to understand, and better define, what you truly stand for and what drives you — your ‘why’. When you know your why, you will be more thoughtful about your business and start to make decisions that are defined by it. We try to remember our ‘why’ in all areas of our business, from the product mix, to marketing campaigns, to upgrades in our IT, to the way we conduct customer service.
- Believe in better. “That’s too difficult” or “That’s not the way it’s done” are easy answers that are often heard and are all too easy to accept. After hearing these repeatedly, it’s not uncommon to fall into the trap of the status quo. It’s important to keep looking for ways to improve, and to keep asking the questions. In each instance that we made significant production changes to make our products more sustainable, the instinctual response from our supply partners was that what we were aiming to achieve was not possible. In each case, we challenged our partners and eventually achieved the results we were looking for.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I am extremely fortunate to be surrounded by people whom I respect greatly in my professional life. These individuals are equally passionate about our business, always seeking the next challenge to improve the way we operate. If I had to select one person that I am particularly grateful for, it would have to be my grandfather, who was the founder of our business. My grandfather taught me many important lessons — the value of hard work, how to face challenges head on and go the extra mile, and most importantly — the irreplaceable value of a good name. He always used to say that everything is fleeting, but a good name lasts forever. My grandfather is no longer with us, but I often think about him when I need some wisdom in my life or business.
You are a person of great influence and doing some great things for the world! If you could inspire a movement that would bring the greatest amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
We strive to be sustainable out of conviction. But if our choices and actions would inspire others to do the same, we would be grateful. I would love to see more suppliers in the textile, furniture and interior design industries take the initiative to improve their products. But of equal importance, I would love to see more consumers demanding better made, more sustainable products.
Do you have a favorite life lesson quote? Can you tell us how that was relevant to you in your own life?
“What one can be, one must be.” — Abraham Maslow
I am only learning about the full meaning behind this quote about self-actualization and achieving one’s potential now. I used to believe that it meant one always needs to work hard, to live a life of purpose, and to strive to reach one’s potential. That can be applied equally to personal and professional life. But that is only half the story. I’ve come to realize that achieving one’s potential is not just an end, but the means to fulfillment. In business, my primary concern used to be increasing sales and profitability. While that remains important, I am more focused on being the best company that we can be, to design beautiful and functional products, to innovate, to improve the customer experience, and to be sustainable. In striving to reach our potential in all these areas, we will also continue to grow as a company.
What is the best way for people to follow you on social media?
You can follow us on Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn at @nassimillc and @supreenfabric.
This was so inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!