A Conversation with Mike Santillo of Gruppo Cordenons Inc.

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Mike Santillo of Gruppo Cordenons Inc.

Gruppo Cordenons has a rich history in paper making, dating back 1630 when the earliest records indicate their Cartera de Cordenon mill in Italy began operation. I recently had the opportunity to speak to Mike Santillo, Eastern Regional Sales Manager for Gruppo Cordenons Inc. When Mike is not on the road, he’s working out of his home office in Western Massachusetts. Here is a transcript of our conversation.

As Eastern Regional Sales Manager, you’re on the road a lot of the time. Tell me about your role with Gruppo Cordenons Inc. When did you start with the company and how has your role changed over the years?

Sure Josh, I’m happy to provide you with some background information. Let me start by describing my role and responsibility at Gruppo Cordenons. I am the Eastern Regional Sales Manager and my primary responsibilities are to develop new business and manage existing business in my territory. Currently I oversee 22 states on the East Coast. I started with Gruppo Cordenons in 2004 and my job today is just as enjoyable as it was when I first started. In response to your question about role changes, I was recently appointed to the lead of a new envelope venture which was kicked off almost one year ago today in January of 2009, since I had previous experience in the envelope industry. As of January, we’ve begun to inventory envelopes in A2s, A6s and A7s in all of our lines and colors for our customers.

You’ve converted all of your papers in all your lines to those envelope sizes?

We have. We found that accessibility to envelopes makes it easy for our customers and their customers and really helps to promote sales for our products.

That’s amazing. It must be a wide range of envelopes.

It’s a lot of colors that we maintain. It’s a lot of different grades that we have here in the US. It’s a pretty big venture.

In February of this year, LCI began carrying Cordenons’ Stardream specialty paper, expanding our lines of custom envelopes in different sizes, pocket folds, pochettes, place cards, invitation kits, and program kits. Our company was attracted to Stardream due to its brand recognition and wide range of colors. What can you tell our audience and potential customers about Stardream? What makes it so popular and in demand?

Stardream Antique Gold wedding program

Stardream is a well recognized metallic sheet available in 81 text and 105 pound cover and has 32 beautiful colors to choose from. Stardream is acid free and archival which makes it the premier choice for annual reports, presentation folders, brochures, greeting cards and invitations to name a few. It has a beautiful astral effect. When you look at the sheet, you see the glitter and the shine that the sheet produces. Stardream is just such a popular sheet. The formation of the product is just very consistent. It’s not to say that some of the competitive products are not, but our base stocks are produced in such a way that it’s going to resemble the finished product—the coating that’s on the outside of the sheet—which helps to ensure that you’re not going to see any base stock along the edges of the paper. People love it and so do I.

Aside from Stardream, what other lines of paper are you excited about working?

Stardream is just one of the many lines that Gruppo Cordenons produces. Our paper lines are designed to create and invoke emotional responses among our customers. Some products such as Plike, which stands for “plastic-like,” have a tactile sensation while other lines are visually moving. However the common thread both lines share (pardon the pun Josh) is that both lines generate a certain element of pleasure.

Our next product to be launched is FSC certified and is called Boutique. The Boutique line has direct connection to Cordenon’s Italian origins. As you know Josh, the Italian fashion industry and design houses establish global fashion trends which influence the texture, color, and cut of the entire couture industry. Therefore, Gruppo Cordenons made a brilliant decision when they decided to produce this new line consisting of very fashion-oriented products named So Silk, So Jeans and So Wool. And each of these lines features a product uniquely manufactured with the fibers you’d imagine the product to contain. For example, So Silk has silk fibers and is available in eight eloquently stunning colors. So Jeans has three colors and is made with authentic cotton fibers and seriously Josh, the true felt marked sheet actually resembles the textures of your favorite pair of jeans. And as you would expect, the So Wool is made with cotton and wool. I started showing the Boutique line two months ago and can assure you that every customer has been extremely excited about it. There is no comparative product in the market today that can compete with Boutique.

These product lines, along with Canaletto, Astrosilver, and Malmero Perle, are the lines I’m most excited about.

Do you think the advent of the internet and the popularity of email and other electronic communication has had an impact on your business?

Yeah I do. I believe that e-commerce has a positive impact on our business and it provides yet another vehicle for communication with our customers. Communication options will continually evolve and help to generate greater awareness of our products. Today, consumers can easily get information about our company and the various paper lines that our mill manufactures. Clicking onto our website allows people to preview the different types of products that we have and the colors that are available. Having online accessibility can make decision making faster, easier and more importantly, more convenient for our customers.

It’s nice to hear there’s no negative impact, at least from your outlook. So that’s good that you have a positive outlook on it. But what about the effects of this economic downturn?

Well Josh, let’s face it, the economy is recovering from what most folks would call a recession. And naturally, Gruppo Cordenons and our customers have experienced its effects. Marketing budgets have been scaled back, consolidations have taken place, and paying greater attention to the bottom line and our revenue stream is the number one priority to sustain our business. We have to continue to present good value for the exceptional products that we offer. We offer premium text and cover and our product pricing decisions must allow us to position ourselves as competitively as possible. We’ve seen a high amount of activity on sample requests and orders this year, which demonstrates continued interest in our products. And I do believe that 2010 is going to be a better year for everyone.

Excellent. Can you tell me about some of the strides Cordenons has taken toward responsible manufacturing processes in terms of conservation and the environment?

Stardream envelopes

Gruppo Cordenons is FSC certified by the Swiss Association for Quality and Management Systems both as a manufacturer, and through certified chain of custody. We are also Chain of Custody certified in the United States. All Gruppo Cordenons’ products are recyclable and more than 80% of our cellulose comes from either ISO 14001 or FSC certified companies.

Gruppo Cordenons is also a charter member of UNESCO “Trust the Forest” program. About 10,000 acres of virgin African forest has been permanently protected under a United Nations sponsored project to safeguard the Ipassa-Mingouli forest from deforestation and illegal timbering.

All of Gruppo Cordenons’ products are manufactured in an ECF environment, (Elemental Chlorine Free), using pulp from responsibly-managed forests, and also, many of Gruppo Cordenons’ grades are manufactured with alternative fibers. For example, our So Wool grade is made with a combination of wool, cotton and ECF fibers; our Canaletto is made with 20% cotton in a neutral base.

Very good to hear about chlorine free. From what I’m learning about chlorine, I don’t want to even swim in it anymore.

Yeah, it’s something that you really have to think twice about, and continually pouring chlorine into our environment, it can’t be good for anyone.

You touched on the Italian operation a few minutes ago. Can you give me a brief history on the mills that are now Gruppo Cordenons?

Yes. The earliest records of Cordenons paper mill date back to 1630, when it was owned by Count Avanzo of Condenons. The Cordenons mill became the official supplier to the Republic of Venice per order of the Dukes of Venice. Today the mill is owned by the Gilberti family and continues to produce a highly distinctive product.

Are there any specifics about the Gilberti family purchases of the mills and the renovations and new technologies they might have implemented?

The Gilberti family made a tremendous investment to the company when they completely renovated the mill to its current state-of-the-art facility. Again, this demonstrates their commitment to the centuries old tradition of producing the highest-quality fine papers available today.

Do you have the opportunity to visit the Italian operation?

Yes, I have been to the Cordenons mill–twice. It is located about an hour and half north of Venice. The country is beautiful and as you would expect, the food and wine was unforgettable. Paper making is a fascinating trade to observe, and to experience that personally touched me. Gruppo Cordenons employs craftsman of the highest caliber who take great pride in their work and it was a honor to meet some of these talented manufacturers during my mill visits. And as you know, the paper manufacturing process requires near perfection to ensure the final product is consistent in shade, weight and texture. It is truly a combination of art and science.

Can you talk about the value of the Cordenons’ relationship with LCI Paper?

I can. The partnership that LCI and Cordenons share is of tremendous value, not only to both of our companies but to our respective customers as well. Understanding the needs of our customers and what it takes to ensure that everything goes right from start to finish is important and rewarding to us both. Partnering with LCI was a natural fit. LCI has a well respected reputation for delivering a high quality product backed up by dependable delivery and great customer service. Gruppo Cordenons knows the importance of producing high quality premium papers that are attractive and easy to work with. Making sure that the customer is satisfied with the quality of our products as well as our service is of the utmost importance to me and the company. In the end, our mission is to exceed your goals by producing beautiful products and providing you with exceptional service.

Thanks to Mike Santillo for the opportunity to learn more about Gruppo Cordenons and their US operation.

Recommended Links:

Gruppo Cordenons’ official site

Stardream Specialty Paper

Stardream Metallic Envelopes

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