Building TUMI – Charlie Clifford on the TUMI Journey

Inc. profiles the story of Charlie Clifford and TUMI:

Charlie Clifford ditched a corporate job in marketing to start a business selling rugged leather bags made in South America. That was in 1974. Nearly 30 years later, he sold his company, Tumi, named for an ancient ceremonial knife from Peru, to a private equity firm. Clifford, 67, credits the success of Tumi, based in South Plainfield, New Jersey, to an ever-evolving design. In the 1970s, posthippies loved the handcrafted leather; in the 1980s and ’90s, frequent-flying yuppies appreciated being able to pack their socks in a separate compartment from their shirts. Along the way, he says, he listened carefully to consumers, salespeople, and employees alike.

The interview ranges from the getting started, the early days with Columbian manufacturers, pricing, design, building relationships with shop owners, international expansion (sans New Zealand, unfortunately), and leaving after selling the company.

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