It’s good to be the king but that doesn’t mean you don’t answer your own phone.
After arriving in Florida with only $400 in his pocket more than 25 years ago, Antonio Ofer Sustiel, aka The Flooring King, says he now runs one of the largest closeout liquidators of laminate wood flooring in the world. But that is not where he started: “I started selling things at flea markets to survive. Every week with hard work and rain and sleepless nights, I turned the $400 into enough to open a fragrance store in downtown Miami.”
He did well with the store, sold it and “retired” at age 35. But he got bored (and overspent) — it was time to start another business. About 17 years ago he began selling flooring, and today his companies — Flooring King and Flooring Liquidators in Fort Lauderdale — have sold more than 50,000 shipping containers of laminated wood, vinyl and hardwood flooring. His companies sell to the trade, such as contractors and retailers.
Because of his self-made success, the 53-year-old CEO will be featured on the season premiere of CNBC’s “Blue Collar Millionaires: Dirty Stinkin’ Rich” at 10 p.m. Jan. 4. Sustiel said the show’s producers liked his enthusiasm, business model and the way he conducts business.
Each half-hour episode features three success stories. Along with Sustiel, the Jan. 4 episode will include a die-hard dredger who makes a fortune moving earth underwater and a demolition diva whose love of pink has her painting the town red.
Sustiel’s business has generated about $40 million in cumulative revenue over the years, he said. He has two warehouse showrooms in Fort Lauderdale and others around the country. “I run my business with the highest-quality customer service and ensure 100 percent customer satisfaction, otherwise I lose sleep at night,” said Sustiel, who was raised in Israel, dropped out of school to work with his father and served in the Israeli military before moving to Florida.
Sustiel picked up even more business when a federal investigation found that a competitor sold Chinese-made flooring that emits hazardous levels of formaldehyde. Sustiel said he sells only flooring made in the USA or Europe and it contains no formaldehyde.
He partners with Habitat for Humanity to supply flooring around the nation. He also sponsors organizations that help low-income families put in flooring, including military members. “We are helping people nationwide rebuild their lives and I am proud to be part of it,” he said.
Sustiel wants to open 150 warehouse showrooms nationwide and 150 in Europe in the next three years, and the company is currently studying franchise and licensing models and looking for investors. Sustiel says although he now has 10 employees, he is rather old-fashioned when it comes to customer service. His direct phone number tops the companies’ websites.