Entering the industry at a time when many were leaving due to a failing economy has proven to be a risk that was well worth taking for DuChateau. This year, as the San Diego-based lifestyle flooring brand enters its tenth year of business, there is not only cause for celebration and reflection of the journey to this point, but the need to strengthen internal compliance and environmental procedures in the wake of the recent termination of its Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification.
DuChateau was born in the midst of the Recession of 2008, with its founders’ clear vision of a flooring manufacturer centered on lifestyle and fashion.
“More than a problem, recessions represent great opportunity, and that is exactly what happened during those years,” said Benjamin Buzali, president and co-founder of DuChateau. “So, while most companies were shrinking in every direction—letting people go, cutting budgets, slowing expansion, even pausing their vision and stopping innovation—we saw this as a great opportunity to hire the right talent, invest, create, innovate.”
Aiming to channel class, elegance and grace, DuChateau has modernized hardwood, an Old World product, with the essence of its European background.
“Any time our products are installed, from our wall coverings to our floor products, it makes the space beautiful,” said Misael Tagle, CEO and co-founder of DuChateau.
Though DuChateau’s products are adding beauty to both floors and walls, they came under fire earlier this year when the company was accused by Sierra Club’s Forest Certification & Green Building Team, which works to uphold high standards and combat greenwashing in forest and green building certification, of knowingly selling flooring with false FSC claims and asking Chinese supplier Zhejiang Yuhua Timber Co., to package non-certified flooring in boxes that were labelled with FSC claims, thus mixing FSC and non-FSC certified flooring in batches that carried 100% FSC claims.
As a result of these violations, FSC suspended DuChateau and Yuhua’s trademark license agreement for 12 months.
In a release issued by the company, DuChateau initially responded to the suspension by saying that it is committed to utilizing and producing environmentally sustainable materials, and that it will continue to support these sustainable practices during the suspension. However, DuChateau has since decided to terminate its FSC certification, and according to the company, it is currently developing further initiatives that support its commitment to sustainability.
The suspension of DuChateau’s FSC certification is not the first time the company’s products have been under scrutiny. Buzali recalls a time in DuChateau’s early years when the entrepreneur duo—new to the flooring industry with the introduction of DuChateau—were told that their products would never succeed; they were too niche, too wide, too long, too unstable, too matte. The list goes on.
Not to be discouraged or derailed by past or present opposition, Buzali and Tagle say they remain confident and steadfast in their vision, values and proposition.
“We contribute our success to the core values that we share as founders,” Tagle said. “We have passion in our heart; we love what we do. Disruption is in our spirit, innovation is in our DNA and we are loyal to the core. And the most important, and what I contribute our success to, is initiatives. Both Benjamin and I have great initiatives, and with initiative, you conquer the world.”
Tagle best tells the story of DuChateau’s success and what he refers to as creative deconstruction by referencing the story of David and Goliath.
“We went against the status quo and we went against an established industry and established product offering, so we fought the giants and won,” he said. “And today, our products are the norm. We created the market for the product, we created a new niche for the product. We obliterated the exotics that were the norm back in the day when we entered the market.”
From the recent addition of a director of talent and culture, to sales reps that understand selling a lifestyle versus selling flooring solutions for all, DuChateau continues to be strengthened from the inside out, hiring for a cultural fit and bringing those on board that align with the its values.
“No matter the positon, from higher-ups to entry level staff, we really make an effort to fire quick, hire slow,” Tagle said. “For us, it’s crucial to have people in our organization that are the right cultural fit.”
As DuChateau works to regain consumer confidence and strengthen its environmental procedures, Tagle says new technologies and state-of-the art machinery promise a future of more innovative products. “We are always looking for new, different and unique opportunities.”
Though it hasn’t always been smooth sailing, in just 10 years, DuChateau has made a name for itself in the flooring industry, and even in the midst of turbulent times, for Buzali, the future of DuChateau is promising and clear: “We will continue to disrupt and surprise.”