Counselor Power 50: Bonni Shevin-Sandy

Meet The CEO Of Dard Design International

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Bonni Shevin-Sandy"Innovation. Creativity. Uniqueness." It's the tagline of Dard Design International, but does a fair job describing what its president and CEO, Bonni Shevin-Sandy, brings to the table as well.

Dard Design was officially incorporated in March 2011, and at that time the company was generating a seven-figure sales revenue. Shevin-Sandy had started doing custom work in the overseas marketplace 10 years earlier, as an offshoot of Counselor Top 40 supplier Dard Products, the third-generation company her family owns. But soon Dard Design became her sole focus and passion, and she made the unusual decision to separate it from the parent company.

"This year we moved into our own facility 20 minutes from the supplier company we were once part of," Shevin-Sandy says. "I only work with one distributor in each end-user account and partner with them to the fullest capacity – we don't work with our partners' competition, which is the key to our growth. Sometimes being more selective with clients is better – this is how to build a strategic alliance. As a Top 40 supplier in the industry, Dard Products traditional business plan wouldn't allow for the strategic alliances my select partners needed for growth." Is her plan working? Apparently, as Dard Design tripled its revenue in 2012.

Consider that in 1993, with 10 years of formal education and training as a psychologist, Shevin-Sandy was poised to work in that field. But her father, Cary Shevin, and grandfather, Jack – who founded Counselor Top 40 supplier Dard – urged her to give the family business a try for one year. "I had to work my way up, which was a challenge, but a good one as I learned all facets of the business," she says.

But her real talent, perhaps because of her psych background, was selling. When her grandfather and father gave Shevin-Sandy a list of 12 accounts that weren't doing much business with Dard Products at the time, she quadrupled their sales.

Cut to 2001, when she opened up the import division within Dard and called it Dard Design International (DDI). "I grew it double digits every year," Shevin-Sandy says. "DDI does a large portion of business in import sales, so I partnered with a design house and then opened a Hong Kong office. In addition, I was in charge of product development, so I've designed hundreds of items and patented over 40 worldwide."

Counselor named Shevin-Sandy its International Person of the Year in 2009, and she's been living up to that title ever since. "When I started doing business abroad, my very first custom order was for $1.1 million," she says.

She's overseas about six weeks out of the year, and despite a global economy that can most charitably be described as "tumultuous," Shevin-Sandy's gift for selling remains. "There are always opportunities, and every time I go overseas I make new connections and come back with new international clients," she says. "Right now, we're manufacturing, warehousing, fulfilling and shipping to more than 48 countries."

More recently, inspired by her mother, Harriet, Shevin-Sandy decided to, as she says, take her company "to the next level." "Earlier this year, Dard Design was given the designation of a Woman-Owned Certified Business," she says. "It was always 100% run by me, and managed by Danielle Torres, and we have several clients who have long-term relationships with Fortune 500 companies. It's these corporations that have established supplier-diversity programs, and our distributor clients urged me to explore woman-owned certification. As a woman-owned company, DDI will now be able to meet the requirements of supplier-diversity initiatives in these larger, Fortune 500 accounts. We choose to partner, not just supply."