Misael Tagle – Co-Founder & CEO, DuChâteau

Misael Tagle is co-founder and CEO of DuChâteau. He leads the development and execution of the company’s strategic growth initiatives and oversees its sales and marketing departments. Under Misael’s leadership, DUCHATEAU has grown into a global company that is unlike any other in the industry. In addition to offering one of the most unique and innovative flooring concepts in the marketplace, DUCHATEAU is the first niche flooring company to distribute its products nationwide through its own direct sales force to better connect the growing brand with customers throughout the U.S. – a fact Misael takes great pride in.

A lifelong entrepreneur, Misael started Nexus Brokerage, Inc. with his father in 2001, which primarily brokered commodities, such as meat and electronics, to Mexico. He got his start in the surface covering industry in 2005, when an acquaintance introduced him to South American exotic wood floors as a potential business opportunity. He then started NOBLE Hardwoods, Inc. which specialized in importing exotic South American wood flooring to the U.S. Misael met his partner and current company president Benjamin Buzali the following year and together they formed the start of what would become DUCHATEAU.

Misael was born in Mexico City and spent his formative years in Coronado, CA, studied high school abroad in Switzerland and earned his B.A. in Business Administration from the University of San Diego. He is passionate about music of all genres but is especially drawn to classic rock, and enjoys playing the drums, guitar, and bass in his spare time. Misael’s interests also include high performance race cars, fine time pieces, and other things that marry high style and flawless technology. He currently resides in the Little Italy neighborhood of San Diego.

Tell me about your early career.
Before Duchateau, I founded a company with my father called Nexus Brokerage, Inc. We specialized in brokering meat and electronic commodities to Mexico. I was driving sales, and the business was steadily growing, but I wanted to innovate in a way that wasn’t solely focused on efficiency and price. I have always had a very strong entrepreneurial drive, and even while I was running Nexus, I explored a variety of businesses and opportunities on the side, looking to see what really struck a chord with me. One of the areas I was very interested in was surface coverings.

How did the concept for DuChateau come about?
In 2005, an acquaintance I had spent time with in Brazil and Paraguay introduced me to an entrepreneurial opportunity in South American exotic wood floors. Through his contacts, I began a venture called Noble Hardwoods, importing these exotic floors to the United States. As this was beginning to show promise, my wife introduced me to Benjamin Buzali through his ex-wife, who she knew from college. Benjamin had been in the garment industry in Mexico City for twenty years, while actively managing his many investments. Like me, he wanted something more. Our connection was instantaneous. We both shared the same strong ambition, entrepreneurial drive, and passion for design.

In 2006, I invited Benny to join me at the Surfaces trade show in Las Vegas, the largest flooring trade exhibition in the U.S. I proposed a partnership over a handshake, and our business was born.

How was the first year in business?
In our first year together, we built on Benjamin’s operational and financial background, and my sales and marketing strengths. We originally operated under a new joint venture named B&M NOBLE Co. We realized right away that finding suppliers in China was the key to success. It enabled us to improve quality while lowering costs. During this year, we launched Royalton Floors, offering polyurethane-based flooring that was popular in the U.S., which later became American Guild and is now The GUILD under the Duchateau brand.

What was your marketing strategy?
We knew early on that we did not want to be just one more flooring company, doing the same things that all of the other companies were doing. We knew that true product innovation was the key to our continued success and growth. Drawing on our passion for sophisticated design, we began looking for something to set us apart.

We found a very unique visual that had not been marketed in the U.S. before. This long-length, wide-plank, hard-wax oil finished flooring was common in Europe for centuries but was foreign to the U.S. market. This was more than a business opportunity – it was a chance to shine and express our love of innovation, design and branding.

This decision is what really made all the difference for us. We single-handedly re-defined the luxury flooring segment and set ourselves apart from all of our competitors. We took these disruptive designs to our Chinese suppliers and created flooring that was radically innovative. With this new look, we knew we needed a new name and brand. Duchateau embodied the European inspiration that would change the flooring industry.

How fast did the company grow during the first few years?
Our growth was exponential! All of our competitors thought we were crazy to focus on something so niche than what was common in the market. Our failure was predicted time and again. In fact, we were successful right from the start. Our unique and sophisticated visuals struck a chord with consumers right away, and our biggest challenge was meeting the demand.

Within a few years, the very same competitors who laughed at us were introducing their own European inspired hard-wax oil collections. As they say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery…

How do you define success?
Success to me is being able to do what you love. I have a passion for design, and I get to focus on that every day. I also love getting to be a disruptive force in the marketplace. It fits my hard-charging and passionate nature. Duchateau enables me to bring all these passions together.

What is the key to success?
Innovation is the primary key to success. I have worked tirelessly to create a culture of innovation at Duchateau. From our product visuals, to our supplier relationships, to our customer service – we seek to innovate every day in all areas of our business. Like a shark, if we aren’t moving forward, we’re dying.

What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
One of the key factors in our success has been the partnership between Benjamin and me. As someone with a strong entrepreneurial spirit, I originally focused on doing everything myself. What I discovered was that the whole really is greater than the sum of its parts. Benjamin and I brought different skills and experiences to the table – and together, we became even stronger. I’m not one of those people who has to do everything myself. I am always open to input and suggestions from others.

What are some quotes that you live by?
I am a huge movie buff. While I have read many of the standard business tomes, I draw the most inspiration from the classic movies that shaped me. In the movie Casino, Ace Rothstein says, “You’ve gotta trust them. There’s no other way.” This approach to partnerships – with loved ones, business partners, suppliers, employees – is eloquently simple but absolutely crucial to success.

Tell me about one of the toughest days you’ve had as an entrepreneur.
I remember a day when shipments we had counted on to meet retailer and consumer demand for our flooring were delayed by situations completely out of our control. I knew the importance of meeting commitments, and it was very difficult to have things go wrong and have no control of the situation. But I learned a valuable lesson – being open and honest with our retail partners made our relationship with them stronger, even through tough times. I don’t need to learn that lesson again…but it was a valuable one!

When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
I have that entrepreneurial drive. I don’t see obstacles as adversity – just a new challenge to overcome. I love rolling up my sleeves and diving in to find the best pathways forward. I think you have to have that spirit to really succeed as an entrepreneur. Not everyone is cut out for that – and there’s nothing wrong with that. An entrepreneurial leader needs the dedicated support of his or her team to get to that next level. But it comes down to the leader with the constant drive to build their business.

What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
Find what you are passionate about. A gifted entrepreneur can make a success in almost any field, but to really gain fulfillment, you should align your entrepreneurship with an industry or project that speaks to your own internal passions. You’ll still work harder than you could have ever imagined, and you’ll still face obstacles – but you’ll find joy in every step.