tv Press Here NBC April 17, 2011 9:00am-9:30am PDT
the teflon ceo stanley chang, head of the nation's largest housewares company talks. plus, joe green, a rebel with a cause changing the world through fab. our reporters from usa today, john swartz and sara lacy of tech crunch this week on "press: here." >> good morning, everyone. this show is about entrepreneurship and the american dream. i'm scott mcgrew. we are talking often with high tech companies like netflix or fab, household names. today we have the head of a
company you have likely never heard of. it's not high tech, but household, very much so. >> i'm chairman and ceo of mia corporation, the largest cookwear company in the united states. >> reporter: stanley chang is the king of cookwear. that's what his newspaper the san francisco chronicle calls him. you may not have heard of meyer buttens chas are you have the products in your kitchen. pots and pans mostly. familiar brands like kitchen aid and circulon, rachael ray, all passed through this distribution center in fairfield, california. shipped in from factories in china and italy. at 170,000 pans a day every day, meyer is not just the largest cookwear manufacturer in america. it's one of the largest manufacturers of anything in the
entire world. and the chinese-born chang started it himself in hong kong. shortly before the british handed the colony back to the chinese, chang moved to vallejo and fairfield. it is now one of the most important and successful employers in the city of vallejo which has filed for bankruptcy. >> stanley chang is riches to riches story. he was born wealthy and became wealt wealthier. let's talk about vallejo. you came from hong kong. why vallejo? >> the city was welcoming to us. i was touring the west coast in search of a home for the company. we were in milwaukee and wisconsin. then we moved to south san francisco. we were expanding.
we needed space. the city was so welcoming and didn't give us space but sold it to us at a good price. the facility had everything. it was easy for us. >> that was then. this is now. vallejo has now gone bankrupt, one of the few cities in the world to do that. does it affect your business? have you thought about leaving? why stay now? >> for us, it has no impact whatsoever. none at all. it's life as usual. in a city that's really -- we couldn't feel anything different. there is no reason for us to move. our employees love the location. it's convenient. most of them live over here on the east bay and it's more convenient for them. i'm probably the only employee that lives on the peninsula. >> you have bucked a lot of trends, one of which is starting out wealthy and becoming wealthier. usually people born into money kind of have that lost
generation of trust fund kids who don't do a lot. another is being the opposite of the tide of most american companies who have been manufacturing in china. i understand you came here because of the political change in hong kong. was there a point you saw american companies going to china where you thought, i have to go back. >> if i may correct you, i didn't come here -- actually, i set up the company in the u.s. in 1981. -- of hong kong from britain to china. that was a good excuse to come. i really needed to be close to the marketplace. i needed to be here in order to get involved and run the business. because of that move actually i think it helped to -- >> i'm sorry, stanley. i interrupted. go ahead.
>> no problem. i was going to say that helped us to grow in this country substantially. >> you say that moving from hong kong, but you are a british citizen. >> i am, yes. >> so there was no political part to moving back to hong kong? >> i can move there tomorrow. >> strictly to get to the market you're addressing. as an engineer, why cookwear? it seems contrarian to me. >> when i first started -- and this will show my age. i joined the company in 1971. >> your father's company. >> my father's company. teflon was introduced to the world in 1964, way before your time. >> flattery will get you everywhere. >> we thought in 1968 we made the decision that going into the
cookwear business was a great idea because the world needs nonstick cookwear. >> there you go. nonstick cookwear has been controversial because of the materials that can come off. what is your engineering understanding of that and how does meyer make stuff that's safe for the home? >> first of all, let me say that nonstick material is totally inert and safe. it may come off if you scratch it, but even if you ingest it, it's safe. >> where is the controversy or the misunderstanding? >> the bad publicity around a material used to manufacture ptfe what was so called pfoa. but that material is no longer used in manufacturing of coatings now around the world. >> you are still deeply involved in engineering pans.
there is a surprising amount of engineering involved. >> you wouldn't think so. i am probably the first low tech company on this show. and a farmer at that. >> probably reach as many people as the other companies we have on here. >> surprisingly though in cookwear in order to stay ahead, to be successful, we as a company believe at the leading edge of technology for cookwear. we continue to invest in the best technology. >> you probably need to innovate because the american kitchen is changing based on the popularity of the food network. there is even a social network called foodaloo which is devoted to foodies. how do you reach the changing audience? >> well, what we normally do and
our strategy when retailers need something, we address that, but generally we look at what the problems that the consumer has at home. what's troubling, what is not perfect? when there is a problem that's an opportunity for us. we strive to find a solution to the problem. and we, quite often, it might call for innovation, creation of new technologies to solve these technical issues. >> you said retailers sometimes ask. have you said no? has a retailer ever come and said, we want and you said no? quite often we say no, particularly when it comes to price. >> i'm sure. but have they ever said we want a pan and you say, that's silly? >> no. we understand our retailers well. it's a partnership. when they understand our customers, we believe we do
if you're just joining us, our guest is stanley chang who makes half the stuff in your kitchen including the pots and pans. sometimes i'm disspirited when someone tells me, did you know this product or that product are actually made by the same company? oh, you paid all that money for this stereo? did you know this other stereo is the same company? in your case that's true.
paula deen, circulon, kitchenaid. >> silver stone. >> all the same company. >> they are brands we either own or license and we do private labels. >> one of the executives said it's just a sticircle on a stic >> it's a metal circle on a stick referring to anolon. how do you make this one worth $200 and available at a gourmet kitchen store and this one worth $20 available at walmart? >> right. first of all, we address the retailer's needs. if the retailer needs a $20 price point we would engineer and fabricate the product to reach that price point. >> cheaper materials? >> and to fill the need in the retailer's assortment.
in the retailer needs color, red, we would manufacture a product that's red to give the assortment a lift. if the retailer needs more stainless steel in a certain price point we would do that, too. then of course we keep our fingers on the pulse of the market. we understand what the consumer prefers. the market preferences actually fluctuate. sometimes stainless steel is a very popular, successful. sometimes nonstick is popular. there is a ten-year cycle. >> how many of the products are fads? i remember several years ago everyone bought pizza stones and in my childhood everyone had an air popper. how many things are you producing that are big now but not a lasting product? >> surprisingly very few products are fads. this is a very mature business we are in and frankly it's a
marketplace. we make products that are long-lasting, that deliver the value to the consumer. >> is there a level? there is a professionalzation of stuff at home. i have friends with a huge gas stove. that's got to be a margin-rich area. because it will be a high price point. >> right. >> the more professional we feel at home, the more money you're making? >> well, yes. but we deliver value -- perceived value for money. quite often, performance of the product is key. i mean, the product has to be -- we don't really make anything that doesn't deliver value or it wouldn't be successful. >> i was saying that the more american consumers demand high end, high value,
professional-level stuff, the better for you. >> which is true actually. but the market in this economy though the market is taking a hit. the high end market. consumers are more value conscious or even price conscio conscious. >> so maybe some vanity items, not the higher priced like -- >> well, the market is very soft at the high end. the mid section is good opening price points. we don't participate in that area, but i understand it's quite good. the regional is across the country basically. we see growth in moderate price points. >> before you go, i want to make sure we address your passion. that's wine. you are a wine maker. was that something that grew inside or was that something your family -- >> no, it's a personal interest. i just enjoy drinking wine.
>> i do, too, but i don't make it. >> then we were fortunate enough. we looked around for three years all over the bay area to find the wonderful property fortunate enough to find a beautiful property in napa valley. rolling hills with an 11-acre lake on it. i started to plant vines. >> there seems to be natural proclivity among engineers to be wine makers. it's a strange phenomenon. >> i want to know if you make money on wine. >> we're going to commercial break. stanley chang has been our guest. up next, one of the few former classmates of thu zmark zuker b t suing him.
with the early days of facebook yet could watch "the social network" and walk out of the theater feeling good about himself. that's because joe green's role in the movie was confined to the background. while his character is never named specifically in this scene we figure it's probably that guy. joe green -- here's the real joe green -- was mark zuckerberzuck roommate at harvard. now he's the author of causes, a facebook app which encourages people to contribute to charity. for instance on your birthday you can ask facebook frien ngs to donate a few bucks to the local food bank. causes has raised $335,000 in relief just for japan. anyone can use causes. newark mayor cory booker for
instance raising money for an animal shelter in new jersey. joe green has been trying to change the world since high school when he joined the school board at 17. in his words, this is my generation's chance to prove we don't suck. let's get the zuckerberg stuff out of the way. you were one of his roommates at harvard. was that a good guess that it was you in the back? well, your character? >> you could. >> all right, good. for anyone who's seen the movie -- go ahead, sara. >> you chose not to partner with mark, correct? he asked you to be part of facebook and your dad said, don't get involved with that mark zuckerberg? >> and do you still talk to your dad? >> i do. >> just kidding. is it true? >> yes. my father is a professor at ucla and the previous zuckerberg
project got us in trouble in harvard. i was also working for the kerry campaign and mark and i are still close. >> one of your business partners currently is sean parker who if someone has seen the movie is the bad guy. have you seen the movie? he's the bad guy. don't partner with him. surely that's going to cause a little bit of concern. >> i don't think so. i think sean is one of the most respected entrepreneurs, one of the great product thinkers and a great human being. he's helped a lot of entrepreneurs including myself very effectively. he's a close friend of mine as well. >> i know in the early days before causes was a name that was his thing. the two of you late nights in berkeley, coding, dreaming to
change the world. how involved is he now? >> sean and i started with the understanding he'd be involved for a couple of years and move on. he's still a board member, adviser of the company, helps us drive the vision but not as involved day to day anymore. >> does causes involve the political aspect in terms of giving donations to candidates or issues? >> we are primarily focused on 501-c-3 char 'titiecharities. we are focused on the bread and butter. >> are you prohibited, if i'm running for office from going through causes? >> not prohibited but the transaction process that we use has been focused on c-3s. it's been our success. it doesn't mean you couldn't do it. >> if i did, could i get the data i need in order to turn it over to the authorities as far as raising political money?
>> we have done some in the past working through partners to allow political fund-raising. we chose to focus on the 3-c side. >> you enable people to give micro amounts. you feel like $10 doesn't make a difference. people had to tailor fund-raising to huge donors. a lot of what you have focused on played out with kiva, donors choose, a lot of different programs. you guys are a part of that, too. what do you think now differentiates causes and what has been your role in the broader change? >> what we have tried to do that no one else has tried is to assemble a large audience of $150 million people there to change the rule but not for a specific cause. we are trying to build for the first time a centralized
platform focused ton giver. historically and still to this day most giving happens through direct marketing where nonprofits send direct mail, still only 8% online. this is the last big market yet to be undisrupt bid the internet. we are focused on delivering what the individual donor wants. they want it to be easy, social and know their money is going to the best place. >> you're narrowing who they give to and donate to. one of the pitfalls at our house is if you give to organizations you hear from everyone from the right wing to the left wing. so it's more of a personalized touch in this. >> unfortunately a lot of organizations sell lists. by using causes you can centralize. we never sell your information. you can control which causes you subscribe to. we have over 50,000 charities that use causes. you can raise money for any of
the 1.5 million u.s. 501-c-3s. >> it seems like what's happening is -- what happens when you go to the grocery store and buy something -- >> impulse buying. >> like impulse giving. i can go find out how to give money to the american cancer society. but then i see, my loved one is dying, could you donate $5? that didn't exist as much before. yeah, there was a can on the register or something. drop money in. but the idea that it's there and, oh, sure, i would be happy to help. >> we are trying to make giving more a part of people's everyday lives. the giving experience can be a burden. i watch my parents sit there at the end of the year to write checks. we think giving is something people want to do all the time. speaking of impulse buying we have causes gift cards in safeway where you can buy and people can choose any charity
they want. >> that's fun. >> we think people want to be empowered to make a difference. we want to provide as many ways to do it as possible. >> i think i will write my check at the end of the year to the symphony, cancer and there will be something i never heard of that, oh, $5 to send billy to wherever or the animal shelter in newark. i give you my word i have given no money to newark's animal shelters but cory booker does that on causes and it's cool. >> what infuriates me about giving is so many organizations you give money to and then you find out maybe a couple pennies made it to people in haiti. >> can i say that if that's true, fine. or are you just illustrating a point? >> i did hear that earlier this
week. i would defer to him. >> but there is a point to it. >> the point being the howhole 0 isn't going to haiti. there are organizations that are doing that. it's frustrating for me because ease of donation doesn't always dove tail what what gets there. i think people in silicon valley don't want it going to overhead. do you have a stand? do you try to make the ngo nonprofit world more responsible? >> yeah. our stand is that the first step is competition. the tsunami is an interesting example. we have raised about $1 million for the tsunami. the organization that raised the most was the local japanese community center in california. more than the red cross. we were providing a set of options to people and letting
organizations tell their stories. they have done great work here. you have employees of nonprofits and sometimes there is too much emphasis on someone going to haiti, they have to be paid to deliver the food, et cetera. but before you could have transparency and reduction in overhead you have to have competition. that's what we are focused on. the organizations that do the best on causes are those telling the stories. you can really show people the effect of the work. >> we'll have to stop there. that will be the time we have.ri
donate and smaller donations happening. you always have disaster-based giving. that's always been the case. but we're trying to solve the more sustainable giving around the year in reactionary giving and people investing and having enduring impact. >> joe green, i appreciate you being here. my thanks to joe and stanley chang. thank you to in this canicky bo helping us with video as well this morning. thank you for making us part of your sunday morning.