Showroom Spotlight

Interview with Amba Products founder Andrew Manidis

The Birth of Amba Products

Twenty years ago, Andrew Manidis ventured into uncharted waters by introducing heated towel racks to the American market—a concept well-established in Europe but nearly unknown in the U.S. In this interview, Andrew reflects on the arduous journey of turning a niche idea into a staple of bathroom luxury and functionality. Here's an overview of our enlightening conversation with the founder of Amba Products.

Andrew and his Wife Karen, Daughter Tatiana, and Son Peter visiting family in South Africa in 2004

Humble Beginnings and Initial Struggles

Starting from a simple suggestion at a dinner party, Andrew took the bold step to shift from trading plywood to selling heated towel racks, inspired by their common use in South Africa. Despite the assurance of rapid success, the reality proved to be a tough grind.

"We realized very quickly after we lost a whole lot of money in the first year, and then even more in the second year, that it wasn't that simple," Andrew recounted about the early challenges.

Adapting to the American Market

The major hurdle was the difference in home heating systems between America and Europe. Unlike European homes, which commonly use radiators that also double as towel warmers, most American homes lacked this feature, making it an educational challenge for Amba Products.

"It was a real awakening because we actually had to educate the people about heated towel racks from the beginning," Andrew explained. "People didn't know anything about it."

Strategic Pivots and Market Penetration

Initially targeting the hotel industry proved fruitless due to their stringent budgets and reluctance to adopt what was seen as a luxury item. The strategy then pivoted towards showcasing products in showrooms, allowing potential customers to see and understand the benefits firsthand.

One of Amba's Radiant Heated Towel Racks in Yotel New York Boutique Hotel.

"We just didn't make any headway at all in the hotel industry. So then we decided to move into showrooms where we could actually put in displays so we could actually show people what these things were. And that was our strategy moving forward, we would try and get showrooms and people in showrooms to show a product to customers and people going in and buying all sorts of other items for the bathroom," Andrew detailed.

Leadership and Company Philosophy

Andrew also shared insights into his management style, which he likens to being a captain of a soccer team—integral yet not overpowering. He prides himself on fostering an environment where team members feel empowered to contribute and share in the company's success.

"I don’t like being in someone’s face. I like people to, get on with it, you know, to be self-motivated. I’ll try to motivate them. But they need to have it in them. I don't like telling people what to do. I don't like being told what to do. So, that's just the way I am, I like people to get on with it."

Reflecting on past challenges, Andrew acknowledges the significant changes in marketing and content production over the years. Two decades ago, the high costs associated with producing marketing materials like videos made it prohibitive for a burgeoning business like Amba Products. Today, however, the landscape has drastically changed.

"Making a video ten or fifteen years ago to depict a product was virtually impossible for us. The cost of producing this stuff has changed so much," Andrew commented on the evolution of digital marketing tools.

He remains optimistic about the role of these digital platforms in further propelling the company's growth, emphasizing how current technologies make it easier and more cost-effective to reach a wider audience.

"Digital marketing and online sales have transformed how we reach customers, making it easier than ever to get our products into homes across the country," he remarked.

A Journey of Persistence and Innovation

Andrew Manidis's journey with Amba Products is a testament to perseverance and innovation in the face of numerous obstacles. From overcoming initial market resistance to adapting strategies in line with technological advancements, Amba Products has established itself as a leader in providing luxurious, energy-efficient solutions for bathrooms all across North America. As Amba continues to grow and evolve, the core of its success remains its commitment to quality, affordability, and customer satisfaction, as well as sharing in success with your team.