According to various definitions, an entrepreneur is “a person who organizes and operates a business or businesses, taking on greater than normal risks in order to do so.”

There is simply no better description than ‘entrepreneur’ for Mendel Greisman. The youngest of eleven children, as Mendel was growing up, he was both inspired by his older siblings and at the same time, challenged to keep up with them. After all, he was bound to be influenced by living in an environment where the entire family is successful in a wide range of exciting business ventures.

Over the years, Mendel had a front row seat while watching his brothers and sisters start-up their own businesses. Learning from their achievements, as well as from their mistakes, Mendel had the necessary confidence to strike out on his own.

Picking the right industry

While there was no doubt that Mendel would start his own business, for him, the big question that loomed was “What should I do?” Originally impressed with the power of a career in the technology space, Mendel was equally as quick to eliminate that option because he realized he did not have the knowledge that would be needed to grow a tech company from scratch.

Instead he listened to sage advice from an older brother and switched gears. He immediately began researching how to start up a product-based company that would offer the chance for the exponential growth that he was impatient to achieve. He was contemplating all the opportunities before him, including medical supplies, home décor, and other similar categories, when the idea of “toilets” was broached. It struck Mendel as a possibility.

As he was investigating the sector, he learned that this industry had a total annual worth of approximately $8 billion, yet there were only three “big players” on the scene. With no clear leader emerging in the space, Mendel was excited by the possibility of becoming the CEO of a billion dollar company.  And that is how Swiss Madison was founded.

Making the decision

Mendel is an impatient entrepreneur, one who is eager and passionate. His next step was to purchase a ticket and fly to Asia where he visited factories, personally seeking out the right suppliers for his newly founded organization. When he returned home, much of the advice he received from well-intentioned friends and family was that he had gone down the wrong road. By seeking manufacturers in China he might be compromising the fledgling company’s reputation. The common thought was that U.S. consumers would not want to buy toilets that were “Made in China.” Fearing sub-standard products, Mendel ordered a sample toilet. Once installed in his parent’s home, he saw that the quality was high and the concern of poor craftsmanship was ill-founded.

Convinced he had the right product, Mendel borrowed a car from one of his brothers and started the tough process of visiting showrooms in Brooklyn to introduce his new toilet. Armed with enthusiasm but without either a traditional catalogue or an experienced sales team, he nonetheless rapidly sold his six samples. He was sure on the right path, he ordered a full container and sold those toilets in record time as well. It was at this point that his brother Sam, encouraged by other family members and by Mendel’s excitement, agreed to join the organization. Buoyed by their new, powerful partnership and the early sales responses, Mendel went on to increase the next order to two containers. But this time it took a little longer to sell that shipment.

Learning key lessons

With inventory sitting in the garage and a lackluster response to his outreach to local wholesalers, Mendel starting posting his toilets for sale on Amazon and E-Bay and other similar sites. He talked the move over with Sam who agreed that they had nothing to lose and everything to gain. Mendel had time on his hands to explore all sorts of different options! With no other competitors entering the online market, Mendel received his first order in just a few hours. He was intrigued by this fast reply and quickly sent off the toilet – followed by others as more orders arrived.

The result? 100% damage to the toilets occurred during shipping! A toilet is heavy, and breakable, and the one area that Mendel had not given enough consideration to was the delivery process. He knew the online platform was a terrific idea-it eliminated personal show room visits and haggling over price and significantly reduced the time needed for personal interaction. But he needed to find a way to get the toilets to the purchasers in one piece. After working with a packaging expert to ensure a safe delivery, the business really took off. Mendel continued to investigate the online retail world, reaching out to Home Depot, Lowes, Build.com and others. Soon Swiss Madison literally could not keep up with demand.

Expanding the vision

It had always been Mendel’s intent to launch a company that would have a high cap ceiling, opening limitless possibilities for future growth. So it was no surprise to him when Swiss Madison took off. As a result, within just three and a half years, he began expanding the line to include more products, filling out the bathroom sector and enabling ‘one stop shop’ by including sinks, tubs, faucets, and vanities.

The challenges of a pandemic

As a young entrepreneur, Mendel had many lessons to learn. First he needed to find a niche product where he could dream big; then he needed to understand supply chain management; thirdly he was tasked with finding packaging that would enable shipping a heavy fragile item without it breaking, and lastly, most of all, he needed to learn how to operate as a successful business man and a leader. With more than 50 employees, a growing list of wholesalers and retailers, and a more inclusive product line, he had more than enough to handle – without the additional challenges of Covid-19.

But the good news for the company is that it was founded on a virtual platform. Starting a company in a digital market provided many benefits for Mendel and at the same time helped avoid the profound obstacles that brick and mortar companies were struggling with. Deemed an ‘essential’ business, Swiss Madison has continued to be competitive throughout the coronavirus crisis, and even with the staff working remotely from home, productivity remains high.

Social responsibility: Improving the lives of people and planet Earth

The relationship that Mendel and Sam shared continued to complement the company and speed its success.  The two brothers each brought a unique dynamic to the company, while also agreeing on the core values of the business.

The Greisman brothers have a passion for creating quality products and, as critically, for creating products that make the world a better place. That means that in addition to putting a focus on reasonable pricing and sleek, beautifully designed bathroom fixtures, they also have a strong commitment to building products that are good for the environment.

Working with their in-house engineering team Sam and Mendel are extremely proud of their newest addition.

In January 2021 they will be introducing a toilet that uses only .08 of a gallon to flush. In other words, it will use exactly half the amount of water that is the industry standard today (at 1.6 of a gallon) but at the same time will provide a flush that is twice as effective.  This is a formula that cannot be beat: half the water, but twice the power. By cutting the level of water usage in half, it is anticipated that they will save approximately one billion gallons per year.  At a time when scarcity of water is a top priority, this is a huge step forward not only for Swiss Madison, but for the world.              

With sales increasing, and their goal of making a positive impact on the planet being realized, it is no wonder that Swiss Madison was recently honored to be listed as #13 on the prestigious NJBIZ list of fastest growing companies in 2020. 

Congratulations to Mendel and Sam – two entrepreneurs who are making a difference for all.