Spotlight on Small Biz: Son takes father’s company beyond just booths
Editor’s note: Spotlight on Small Biz is an occasional feature about a company, entrepreneur, or business issue.
Bert Kissoondath has taken his father’s restaurant-seating company and driven growth by expanding its offerings beyond just booths.
Crystal-based Randy’s Booth Co. continues to produce custom booths to the same handmade standard that built a national reputation for its founder, Randy Kissoondath, who sent seating to restaurant chains, casinos and hotels across the country.
But under the younger Kissoondath’s leadership, the company now offers an expanded lineup that includes tables, chairs and other seating for restaurants and other commercial customers.
Residential designers and architects increasingly are turning to Randy’s Booth for kitchen banquettes, beds and headboards and special circular or U-shaped seating arrangements for family rooms, Bert Kissoondath said.
Underscoring the company’s broader offerings is new branding that features an “RBC” logo and a “Custom Hospitality Furnishings” tagline.
“We were known for a long time as being strictly booths,” Bert Kissoondath said. Now, he said, “we do basically anything you can imagine furnishing-wise. You tell us what you want and we will build it for you.”
Kissoondath joined the company in 2006 and began running the business after his father’s death in 2009. Since he took over, Randy’s Booth has grown from five employees to nearly 30 and sales have increased more than five times.
Last year, Kissoondath moved the company into a 20,000-square-foot building that he bought and renovated in Crystal. The new home, more than double the space of the company’s former northeast Minneapolis location, came with nearly two acres of land for possible future expansion.
The company’s growth got it named Minnesota’s 2018 family-owned business of the year by the U.S. Small Business Administration.
Kissoondath was nominated for the award by the Metropolitan Economic Development Association, or Meda, a Minneapolis-based nonprofit that offers consulting and lending services to minority-owned businesses.
Kissoondath began working with a MEDA business consultant, Antonelli Lindsay, in late 2016. He wanted help developing a growth strategy and moving from being a “doer” in the business to president of the company, Lindsay said.
Lindsay said she worked with Kissoondath to address his desire to please everybody. The answer was to have Kissoondath work on saying “no” a number of times a week.
Kissoondath also got coaching on clearly communicating and setting expectations with employees and making presentations to larger companies.
“He has gone a long, long way,” Lindsay said. “I’m proud saying that Bert today is truly the president of Randy’s Booth.”
Bert Kissoondath’s father, Randy, was just 17 when he left Trinidad and Tobago, a dual-island nation in the Caribbean, to join a brother in the Twin Cities.
Randy Kissoondath, who had developed expert upholstery skills working on cars before arriving in Minnesota, taught himself carpentry and learned how to calculate the radiuses necessary to build curved restaurant booths.
The business took off and Randy Kissoondath’s stress level grew with it, his son said. By the age of 45, he’d suffered four heart attacks and underwent open-heart surgery. He retired in 1991 to enjoy his antique cars.
Randy Kissoondath relaunched the company in 2006 with the intention of operating on a smaller scale, but demand quickly soared again.
Bert Kissoondath joined Randy’s Booth around that time, leaving a career in banking. At first, he spent long hours driving to customer locations and doing installations.
His understanding of the back end of the business helped him keep it going after his father’s death. But he knew little about front-end issues such as pricing.
Kissoondath attributes his success to his employees, their love of the work and the rewards of making handmade furnishings.
“It was a lot of pressure having a family business like that and figuring out how was I going to keep this business with the same pride and the same work ethic and the same quality my father had – without my father,” Kissoondath said. “It was a lot of stressful days and months and years. But you learn a lot.”