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Daily Voice Leaders: Farooq Kathwari, CEO Of Danbury's Ethan Allen

Farooq Kathwari discusses his relationship with Western Connecticut University, the state of the furniture business, and how a boy from Kashmir rose to run one of the premier furniture companies in the world.
Farooq Kathwari discusses his relationship with Western Connecticut University, the state of the furniture business, and how a boy from Kashmir rose to run one of the premier furniture companies in the world. Video Credit: Joe Jenkins

DANBURY, Conn. -- The idea that 12 wicker baskets sent from Kashmir could turn a working student in New York into the CEO of Danbury-based Ethan Allen Inc. may seem unlikely, but that is precisely what happened to Farooq Kathwari.

"Through accident, my grandfather in Kashmir was involved with arts and crafts and decided on his own when I was a student to send me 12 wicker baskets and said sell them," Kathwari told the Daily Voice. "Well, I did sell them and, in fact, I got Bloomingdales as my first customer."

It was through his basket sales that Kathwari met Nathan Ancell, founder of Ethan Allen. Kathwari then convinced Ancell that he could assist him in getting handwoven fabric from his home of Kashmir delivered on time and with fewer problems for the furniture maker.

By 1988, Kathwari had become president and CEO of the company. In the years that followed, Kathwari helped Ethan Allen to navigate the recession and was named one of the 50 best CEOs in the U.S. by Worth magazine.

In the process, Kathwari has also become a pillar of the community, recently donating $1 million to Western Connecticut State University to support the Danbury institution's Honors Program.

Not a bad return on 12 wicker baskets.

Kathwari also discussed:

  • Where Ethan Allen stands in the furniture world (0:08 into clip).
  • Going from a boy in Kashmir to the CEO of an American furniture company (1:17 into clip).
  • How being a Kashmir native has impacted his experiences as CEO of Ethan Allen (3:35 into clip).
  • Donating $1 million to Western Connecticut State University (4:47 into clip).
  • How Ethan Allen remains competitive in the furniture industry (5:58 into clip).
  • Keeping Production in North America cost effective (7:11 into clip).
  • How technology has changed the furniture business (7:40 into clip).
  • Goals and targets for the next five years (8:42 into clip).

Click here to view more from the Daily Voice Leaders Series .

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