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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

KEEPING AMERICA ON TOP: WHOM YOU KNOW CELEBRATES AMERICAN STYLE INTELLIGENCE and EXCELLENCE with a Chez Peachy Exclusive Interview with Daniel Bouzide CEO, WellnessMats Sponsored by Cosmopolitan Dental, Official Dentist of Whom You Know

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Daniel Bouzide has spent much of his life conceiving of and launching highly successful companies. Many might call him a “serial entrepreneur.” 

 Driven by equal parts by creativity, energy, curiosity and at times pure necessity, Bouzide began his entrepreneurial adventures in his early twenties in the food and beverage industry and quickly grew to three locations. Soon thereafter, he launched his own promotional company. As a byproduct of those ventures, he became a successful manufacturing rep, and later a manufactures rep principal. It was during his time representing dozens of companies that he became familiar with a particular material that has helped to shape and define the second half of his entrepreneurial career – polyurethane. He began representing a polyurethane flooring product in the salon and spa industry and the rest is history. He realized that this material and the product had tremendous untapped potential – one that could serve far more industries than just beauty. 

 In pursuit of this vision, he soon sold his interest in the Rep Group and in 2000 and founded SmartStep Therapeutic Flooring.Smart Step has grown exponentially and has a presence in eight unique (separate) divisions. In 2009, driven by growing demand in the consumer markets, Bouzide made a strategic decision to separate the company into two divisions to better service the market segments – SmartStep Therapeutic for the B2B markets and WellnessMats for B2C (consumer) markets. 

The company now maintains a presence in gaming and hospitality, the beauty industry, industrial, retail/commercial, medical, exclusive branding and promotions, housewares as well as mass retail markets. They are the ‘mat-of-choice’ for the Department of Homeland Security-TSA and have become a favorite for professional and home chefs across the country.“I really enjoy my work and have been fortunate enough to be able to follow my dreams. I have a very clear vision for my businesses; not to be the biggest, but to be the best.” While his companies keep him busy, Bouzide remains committed to the idea of ‘constant improvement’ – in the products, customer service, and in the development of new markets. 

 “Part of being the best means remaining focused and diligent. Without continued R/D, any business will falter. Success means staying one step ahead – no pun intended - all the time.”  Canadian-born, Bouzide became an American the very day he became eligible for citizenship. It is safe to say that his patriotic blood runs red, white and blue. “One of my proudest days was when I became a U.S. citizen, the land of opportunity” recalls Bouzide. As such, he has made it a core value of his companies. Made in the U.S.A. is not just lip service, Bouzide supports his assertion at every turn. Everything is Made in the U.S.A. from design, manufacturing, packaging, and marketing. 

 “We face growing competition from cheaper imports every day, but we will not compromise our values nor our commitment to being the best, and that dedication extends all the way to our belief in American manufacturing – we are proudly ‘100% Made in USA.’" Bouzide is also a committed family man. With six children, family is the “central focus,” and needless to say, one of his driving forces. To offset his busy professional and personal life, Bouzide tries to find time for his favorite sport. “Hockey is my other real passion; I can be pretty intense and it allows me to blow off steam!” He tries to hit the ice once or twice a week when he can and, time permitting, he also likes to squeeze in a ride on his Harley now and then….

Peachy Deegan interviewed Daniel Bouzide for Whom You Know.

Peachy Deegan:What was your first entrepreneurial venture and how did it work out?
Daniel Bouzide: Growing up with family in the restaurant business, it only seemed natural that I would start my career there. After some traveling, in the early 80s, I opened a restaurant/bar called Rumors. This was in Canada, and at this time the concept of chicken wings and potato skins was new and exciting as it was the beginning of the ‘Roadhouse’ era. Being young with financial limitations, this concept was ideal. Never before could you go to garage sales and old barns and throw just about anything you can find on the walls for décor. It was unheard of to have TV’s playing in a restaurant; and yes, even video games and pool tables on site. The music was upbeat and loud. Rumors was a pioneer of the next generation of restaurants and bars. Loyalty and customers were often compared to the sitcom Cheers, with an obvious difference being, I was not Ted Dansen an ex ball player. Nine years in this industry is almost unheard of, but because there was no format, I could easily turn on a dime with a theme, promotion, menu items and just about anything you could think of. In 1985, the second Rumors was opened. The 9,000 square foot building rocked and included a huge outdoor patio when even this was not popular. By the late 80s, the third was established, but by now the Roadhouse concept became a common place and the competition included heavily financed national chains making things more difficult.

What should the world know about polyurethane? 
 It is a tremendously versatile material; soft, strong, durable. There are many ‘grades’ of polyurethane, and you will find it in shoes, outdoor shoes (such as crocs), furniture, etc. For our product, we have engineered a proprietary polyurethane that enables our mats to be incredibly durable, soft, easy to care for and most importantly effective. We call it APT – Advanced Polyurethane Technology. It is this proprietary technology that allows us to offer an unprecedented 7 year warranty on our products. The material itself is inherently buoyant, will not puncture, and very strong. It is safe, non-toxic, had no off-gassing nor any toxic/noxious chemicals. Plus it is recyclable. We would use no other product for our mats – period. It is a premium product, and it performs. 

What are the components of a successful entrepreneur? 
There are many contributing factors to success in business. Some of the more obvious include; honesty, integrity, faith and hard work. You must have a clear distinct vision, yet be able to alter and adapt that vision quickly. At the same time, have a financial business plan that can be stuck to like glue. Surprisingly, simple common sense is a key ingredient yet so often overlooked in business. Any successful entrepreneur will tell you that surrounding oneself with competent key and appreciated people is an absolute must. You will live and breathe the vision and have passion and belief beyond your most important employee, making for a great leader.

Tell us about how proud you are to be made in the USA. 
Aside from being in business, I feel honored and privileged to be a US citizen every day. Clearly, America is the land of opportunity where anyone can reach for the stars if they desire. I am extremely proud to be a part of the economic make-up of this great nation and will never steer from this appreciation and value. Living in Michigan through these recent difficult times has left a greater impact on the importance of Made in America products. I know everyone in our office and manufacturing facility shares in this sentiment and to be a leader in this synergy and pride is very rewarding. 

Who are your favorite hockey players and teams and why? One of our Movers and Shakers is Howard Baldwin... 
Well of course living in hockey town, the Red Wing’s consistent strive for excellence has to be admired by all. Watching Steve Yzerman for 20 years was a great example of talent, devotion, modesty and adapting for the good of the team. However, my favorite NHL player would be Mark Messier. Even in the shadows of the Great One (Wayne Gretzky), Messier was a tremendous leader. His strength and determination was evident on his game face at all times. Through skill, accomplishments and doing things the right way, Mark Messier set tremendous examples and earned the respect of every NHL player in his day. I admire this intense demeanor and try to immolate this type of leadership in my everyday life.

What or who has had the most influence on your pursuit of excellence? 
At the risk of sounding self-centered, I would have to say; in part it is my own character that has influenced this pursuit. As a young adult and often to a fault, if I could not be among the best at a sport, hobby or relationship, I would quit. I have always strived to be the best that I could. I think to prove to myself that anything is within reach. Obviously survival, supporting my family and later appreciating some of the nicer things in life contributed to the pursuit of success.

What are you proudest of and why? 
I am the most proud of my children. I like to think that I am a good parent, but like the business, parenting is constantly changing. I need to continually adapt and improve. I love each of them unconditionally and am extremely proud of all of my children. Each of them are so unique and have so much to offer. The smiles, little joys and the warmth they bring are among the most important things in life.

What would you like to do professionally that you have not yet had the opportunity to do? 
Like every washed up, beer-league wannabe hockey player, I would dream of playing hockey in the NHL. On that note, I would have wanted to be a race car driver, rock star, famous actor and more. Getting real at this point in my life, what I look forward to is security, calm and semi-retirement. I look forward to the day when my companies are secured and those I am mentoring now surpass me and continue to take my businesses to the next level… professionally semi-retired.

What honors and awards have you received in your profession? W
While representing many companies, I received eight national awards and recognitions as sales rep of the year over a five year period. There have been various awards in other industries that I have participated in, but the sales and marketing recognitions apply the most to my current businesses.
What is your favorite drink? 
Nothing beats an ice cold beer after a hard skate with your buddies, and a good occasional Crown Manhattan is a great relaxer but my common drink is a nice glass of wine, preferably Chardonnay.

What is your favorite thing to do in Manhattan that you can do nowhere else? 
Sitting in the window at the Blue Fin at the corner of Broadway and 48th. With the full wall window, it is the best people watching venue in town. More than once, I have engaged in conversations through the half inch window with hand language and lip synching, pretending that I knew the person. You know, the wave, the smile, the “remember me” all through body movements and facial expressions. It is hilarious. About 1 in 10 actually engage in this…gotta love NY.

What is the funniest thing that has ever happened to you at a cocktail party? 
Oh I don’t know – what has not happened? Remember, I did own a chain of bars and restaurants! However at a recent fundraiser, I did miss a step walking off a stage. It was quoted as the most graceful fall of the year. Not sure if it was age sneaking up on me or the Chardonnay.

What is your favorite restaurant in Manhattan? 
My ‘new’ favorite restaurant in New York is Mario Batali’s Otto. The food and ingredients are amazing – fresh, delicious - and the atmosphere is low-key. WellnessMats has an alliance with the Mario Batali Foundation, so about a year ago, I made time to go downtown and give Otto a try – needless to say, I was blown away. We all know Mario is a superstar and all of his restaurants are awesome, but my time in New York is always busy. So when I have any free-time, I like to relax. Otto is a place I know I can grab a delicious meal, great glass of wine and just relax.

What do you personally do or what have you done to give back to theworld? 
 Time and time again, I find myself in the position of being a role model/mentor to teens and young adults. I am extremely grateful for my worldly experiences, both successes and failures, and am always willing to share my story, offer advice, guidance, and whatever tools I can provide. If someone sincerely wants to learn, I will invest the time to share my experiences and opinions to help them navigate through life.

Other than Chez Peachy of course, what is your favorite Whom You Know column and what do you like about it? 
The new made in USA column. We love it and are thrilled you are helping showcase companies that are dedicated to our country!

Have you drank The Peachy Deegan yet and if not, why not? 
 I have not had the pleasure. I am based in Detroit. But will try when I am back in NYC.

What else should Whom You Know readers know about you? 
I feel privileged everyday that I have been able to follow through with my visions. It is not very often that people have the opportunity to follow their dreams and be successful. Nothing has come easy and has taken a tremendous amount of work, but I appreciate everyone and everything around me. I look forward to continuing in the success of my companies and sharing it I feel blessed everyday that I can stand up, kiss my wife, hug my children and go to work. Sometimes it is the simplest gifts that are the most rewarding. If you are willing to continually learn, able to put priorities and principals in the right directions, and always believe in your dreams, anyone can become a successful entrepreneur.

How would you like to be contacted by Whom You Know readers?
Please feel free to contact me at

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