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Business Observer Friday, Jun. 27, 2014 5 years ago

Search for Space

A look at one fast-growth firm's frantic hunt for a new facility reveals a gap in the marketplace. Will the company, a $4 million product design business, stay here?
by: Mark Gordon Managing Editor

The art-meets-commerce of product design, from women's undergarments to iPhone cases to a bomb squad robot, is on full display at R&R Associates.

But what R&R President Leo Riza really seeks is a new spot to showcase all his business, with 35 employees and $3.6 million in 2013 sales, can do. His needs fill a long list: Riza wants a space that's 40,000 to 50,000 square feet; something sleek enough to host clients who visit from across the globe; and something cool enough for a mostly 20-something, hip workforce. R&R currently works from two places, a cramped 5,000-square-foot office in downtown Sarasota and an equally crowded 10,000-square-foot assembly facility in a Manatee County industrial park.

“(Space) is the biggest problem we have now,” says Riza. “We need to address those needs.”

That problem, it turns out, is complicated. That's because while there are plenty of spaces available, many at good rates given the current market, none of them has been the right fit for R&R. Riza says he's spoken with several commercial brokers, builders and landowners about a variety of options.

He nearly bought a 150,000-square-foot building in Sarasota at a bedrock price. But he balked, partially because of the location. He wants a building he can proudly show clients and a space where designers and engineers can work creatively. Says Riza: “We can't just go ahead and purchase a building and move without considering the environment it would create.”

There's also a sense of urgency to R&R's space problem. Riza says other areas, especially Miami, have tried to woo R&R into leaving town — an option he calls a last resort. “We've had a ton of incentives thrown at us to relocate to South Florida,” Riza says. “We are trying the best we can to keep headquarters here in Sarasota.”

Riza founded R&R with his brother, Erkan Riza, in 2007. A native of Turkey, Leo Riza immigrated to the United States in 2001. The son of college professors, he came to America with $70 in his pocket.
He worked for product design firms in New Jersey and Massachusetts for six years before he moved to Sarasota.

R&R has since grown every year. Riza projects around $4.6 million in 2014 sales, an increase of at least 27.8% over 2013 and 58.6% over 2012. Clients are everywhere from Australia to Russia and Israel to Singapore. Projects the firm works on vary, from dental care, such as a toothbrush, to consumer goods, such as an HD camera. Riza says the firm will take a product from a napkin sketch to the shelf, with all the tasks in between. That includes a market analysis, prototyping and patent research.

“We've built our own brand,” says Riza, “and are known globally.”

Riza says the firm picks up most new clients through word of mouth. That's also how it hires many new employees, from current staff spreading the word. The challenge of finding top employees, says Riza, has only been trumped by the search for space. But in the past year or so Riza says several R&R employees have taken on key leadership roles.

“Employees treat the business like it's their own,” says Riza. “It almost makes the business self-sustain itself. Seeing that makes me proud and the feeling is worth millions of dollars to me.”

Follow Mark Gordon on Twitter @markigordon

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