Family Business of Year: ETS Express Inc.

Meet The ETS Express Family

ETS Express IncTrue family business that it is, ETS Express (asi/51197) got its start in the ad specialty business in a roundabout way. Ely Eyal came to California from Israel, where he started a hand-painted ceramic and glassware company. On one occasion, Ely sold his car to somebody who happened to be a distributor. When the new owner came to the shop to pick up the car, he asked if he could look around.

"He said, ‘You know, you really should be doing the same thing with this glassware,' " says Sharon Eyal, Ely's son and the company's CEO today. "But instead of hand-painting the stuff, you should be printing it.' And that's how we were introduced to the ad specialty industry. So then my dad ordered a printing machine, and the distributors started feeding him orders; slowly but surely, he became an ASI member."

That was in 1985. Today, ETS has 91 printing machines and another 32 machines on order. The Oxnard, CA, location includes 150,000 square feet spread out over four buildings, with another 50,000-square-foot building soon to be acquired. Sharon and his sister Taly, the supplier's CFO, took full control of the company in 1994. "My dad's still involved and comes in every day, but the day-to-day operations are handled by Taly and me," Sharon says. "We've grown from two employees to over 300. People ask how we do it, and it's because we have an exceptional team. We have such a great family environment; we're able to keep that small-business atmosphere. The growth has been phenomenal." That's one word for it. Explosive would be another. The company's sales have increased from $6 million in 2005 to $46 million last year.

Sharon, who began working in the family business while in high school, says he and Taly were determined to put ETS on the map. They knew if they wanted to stick exclusively with drinkware, they would have to offer standout products. "We launched our first unique design in 1997, and that was the turning point. We thought ‘Hey, by being innovative, we can can open more doors for us by having items that others don't have," says Sharon. "I told Taly we needed to be the innovators in drinkware and move forward. That has been the driving force behind the tremendous growth."

In addition to designs, ETS is known for its whatever-it-takes attitude to get the job done. Taly credits the firm's success to the mentoring of their father and the fact that they share similar core values and work ethic. "While working with family may be challenging for others, for us it has always been an advantage," says Taly. "We feel that every customer is a good customer, and we've run our company that way since day one."