CAO--A Family Affair

CAO Offers Pipes, Humidors and Cigars. But Founder Cano A. Ozgener's Most Important Product is His Children

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"We wanted to be on the cutting edge," he explains. "I gave him [David Ravandi, the ad designer] free opportunity. He came out with the first version of the advertisement and I showed it around the office, and almost everybody didn't like it. Aylin hated it and my wife threatened me with a divorce. Only two people liked it: Murat and me. We went with that ad. And we got unsolicited remarks like 'Your ad is beautiful.' When that happened, it was an eye opener."

Though CAO may push the boundaries with its advertising, it will never compromise its integrity, says Aylin. "We have stringent quality controls," she says. "We have been in the humidor business for about seven years now, and if you look at a humidor we made in the beginning versus now, it's a real difference. And the cigars, too. From our first batch until now there is a definite improvement."

The commitment to quality has made CAO a success, accor-ding to Cano. Now 61, he looks back on his life with pride and a sense of accomplishment. "To be able to do something that you like as a business is great. I have my son and daughter working with me and young people working for us, so I am contributing something to the younger generation and I am contributing something to this country also."

His children share their father's sentiments. "We have always believed in supporting people," Aylin says. "Even at those times when sales were downhill and the tobacco industry was in need of something to help boost it, he would still support the carvers. He never put anybody out of business and did not fire anybody. That is something that I respect and something that I learned: not to get into something just to make more money, but to help the same people that have helped you."

Murat adds: "When I go and try to push products, it almost isn't about making money, it is about wanting to continue this thing that my father started. When I talk about my father and how he started this company, I feel a degree of pride. Some people say, 'It is cool that you feel this way about your father.' I am proud of what he started and I want it to be strong. It is great when you have that sort of feeling and a sort of reciprocal feeling, too, in a family business."

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