Siler City, NC

First in Determination

John and Donna Sich had already decided to work for themselves when the opportunity to start Floorazzo landed in their lap. But it came with a catch: The business person they partnered with didn’t disclose his financial trouble. “We were paying him and he wasn’t paying the lease owner of the building,” said Donna Sich. But they were determined. They worked with a banker to purchase the manufacturing plant and become its official owners.

A Competitive Edge

The Sichs put their heads together to create a terrazzo tile product that would outperform their competitors. They developed the “fusion system,” allowing them to seal the cracks between tiles and add flexibility to their floors, which was especially useful in a healthcare setting. “You don’t have to worry about things getting in the cracks and growing disease. For easy repairs, you can just cast the damaged spot right there and you’ll never see it.”

Finding a Niche

“We found a niche in the hospital operating room and sterile environments. Our tile can be placed anywhere they want to have a special pristine install fusion . . . With this kind of flooring going up the wall, they can go in and spray it down easily and it’s clean.” Big hospitals like Johns Hopkins and Beth Israel Medical Center have adopted the Floorazzo tile; Hopkins even plans to make the material standard in all their public restrooms. 

“When you’ll look at the range of things where we’ve had professional help [from the SBTDC] it’s a lot. And we needed it. Because I never realized how narrowly focused I was on operations.”

The SBTDC Advantage

In their startup phase, the Sichs connected with law students through the SBTDC to help them navigate the legalities of their uncooperative business partner. Of the program, Donna Sich said, “it was like if you’re dying of thirst and found the oasis.” Later, after Floorazzo became established in their market, they utilized SBTDC interns once again, this time for web design and digital marketing. “We really had a naive understanding of how to put a national marketing piece together,” Sich said. In that way, the SBTDC interns were invaluable to Floorazzo’s growth.

In addition to providing interns, the SBTDC helped Floorazzo grow through business planning and analysis, refinancing, and international business development. The Sichs received a STEP grant to attend international trade shows, and they count on the SBTDC for regular counseling. “To know that we can reach out about any question, that gives us a little assurance.”

Addressing Blind Spots

Sich says he is grateful to the SBTDC for their help over the years on a broad range of topics. His focus on operations has at times made it difficult to see blind spots in other areas. “I have an MBA in finance, but that was fifty years ago and I didn’t know how” to address some legal, financial, and marketing issues inherent in running a business. “I didn’t have the time, the energy to be able to go figure that out.”

Fostering Community

Today, Floorazzo is growing at a significant rate, though they were set back by COVID. “Our pipeline has 5 million plus in sales over the next 12 months,” Sich said. He also stressed the importance of fostering a community: “We are family. Some of our folks have been with us seventeen years. They, too, have come through over the years when we have been backed up against the wall.” He says they don’t ever plan to leave Siler City, the small town near the triangle region where they operate. “We stay here because of Chatham County,” he says. “We didn’t want to move away from our people.”

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