Entrepreneurs for the 21st Century:
Ted Doudak, Riva Jewelry
At the turn into the 20th century the Industrial Revolution fostered a new, uniquely-American image — the self-made man, successfully building his own enterprise solely through thrift, honest hard work, and perseverance. The archetype of the "self-made" individual remains deeply entwined with the American myth that continues as today's men and women entrepreneurs start businesses, manufacture products, build corporations, and create jobs within our country and New York City. The archetype lives on through business owners such as Ted Doudak, President of Riva Jewelry, Long Island City, NY, manufacturing jewelry in New York City since 1988.
Ted arrived in this country in 1985 from Lebanon and started working for a chain manufacturer. After about a year, Ted quit and went to work for a carpet installation business. He made more money but at the end of the day he was having back and knee problems. His doctor advised him to find another line of work. It is at that time that Ted went back to the jewelry industry where he worked next to his future partner and friend Bill Antzoulis. At first, the pay was very low, but then Ted reconsidered and accepted it, saying to himself, "Everyone with good head on his shoulders makes it in jewelry."
Their employer's customers begged for faster delivery and could not find enough people to help with manufacturing, so Ted would take the overflow work to complete in the evenings at home. The business owner was happy if he had enough orders to keep his seven or eight workers busy for two weeks and was not moving toward growing the business or envisioning a longer-term plan.
Thinking strategically, Ted began to teach himself more about jewelry making and friends and relatives agreed to help teach him. With $2,000 in his pocket, he bought the tools and books he needed for diamond setting; he was ready to start learning. Suddenly, everyone who had promised to help Ted became "busy," so he began practicing the techniques without the precious stones. Although more difficult to learn on his own, day after day Ted practiced his craft. He created the rings from brass wire and taught himself to raise, bend, cut, and set stones with simple and then complex prongs. With the books and trial-and-error as his teachers, Ted learned the art of jewelry making.
Bill asked Ted to be his partner and borrowed $5,000 from his brother to buy their first machines. Customers were begging for fast delivery. The silver jewelry buisness was growing rapidly. The two friends would work all night and straight through the weekends to help meet the demand.
In 1988, after two months working in the basement of where they lived, Ted and Bill rented space in Manhattan and named the business Riva Jewelry, a combination of the owner's names. Ted's given first name, Rizkallah, lends the "Ri", and the "Va" comes from Bill's Greek last name Antzoulis. As business grew they rented the adjacent space and once again additional space in the same building, eventually having 4,500 square feet for the business.
When the recession hit in the early 1990s, the partners decided to split. Ted bought the business and persevered and grew. Riva Jewelry is currently upgrading its technology and changing its company name to Riva Precision Manufacturing which reflects the expansion of business activities and capabilities. Today the company resides in an 21,000 square foot facility, employs over 100 people, and manufactures the finest quality premium jewelry — a multi-million dollar enterprise led by Ted Doudak, a "self-made" man for the 21st century.
This article, written by Marion Lunt, ITAC's Marketing and Communications Director, is based on a recent interview with Ted Doudak, President, Riva Jewelry. If you are a manufacturer in New York City and are interested in how ITAC can help you grow your business, please contact Marion at firstname.lastname@example.org or 646.545.2245.
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