AICO celebrating 25 years
Heath E. Combs -- Furniture Today, January 29, 2013
Page 2 of 3
"I have some, I would say, impressive but crazy looking clothes," he said.
He left Europe at the age of 23. Curiosity, mostly, drove him to America.
He settled in Roanoke, Va., for 14 months, attending Virginia Western Community College. He eventually decided Roanoke was just too small a city for him, so he packed up his Pontiac Gran Prix and in 1980, moved to Los Angeles.
"At that time I was looking for action, I was looking for a city. When you live in Europe you're used to seeing people walking on the sidewalk and shopping. I was bored to death at that time," Amini said. "I wanted to become more sophisticated by being in a major metropolitan city."
He attended Cal State Long Beach, graduating with a focus on electrical engineering in 1984. He bounced around in various industries until 1988, when he started selling a furniture factory line in Los Angeles. On the side, he began buying furniture that was returned or defective, reselling it under the AICO name.
He bought a small truck with a rebuilt engine, rented space and after work each day fixed furniture seconds with parts he bought, then wrapped and photographed them.
His goal was to accumulate enough money to start his own business. Amini sold the pieces to local retailers under the AICO name, which - although not yet registered - was what he wanted to one day name his company.
"They said: ‘AICO? Who the hell is AICO?' I said, this actually belongs to this guy I'm trying to help. I didn't want to say it was mine because I was afraid people wouldn't buy it," Amini said.
He registered the name in 1988 and soon after, began attending furniture shows in Taiwan. His first container of product arrived in late 1989.
The first few years were tough, he said. The first container of chairs he purchased from Asia wasn't kiln-dried well and began shrinking. There were also finish issues. His retail customers began returning the chairs.
In what would become a key business lesson for him, Amini said, he refunded his customers' money. That such a small dealer would return their money impressed many of these retailers and probably helped save his business, he said, earning loyalty from his customers. The chairs were a bust, though.
"I lost the money. That happens in business sometimes," Amini said. "I had a couple of other disasters along the way that really ran me down and I lost a lot of money on. But I never gave up."
Amini said he was also able to develop some important relationships in Asia early on - relationships that would later bloom. In 1990, AICO imported cocktail tables, followed by dining and bedroom later in the decade.
Amini's itch to design came back. Even though he didn't know much about what would sell at retail, he was forming his design vision.
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