Not many people say they have fun at work, but Robert Berman, the president and CEO of Rasta Imposta, does. “I think every day is fun, even if faced with challenges – I love coming to work and my job,” he says.
That is not surprising, considering Rasta Imposta’s business. Based in Runnemede, N.J., the company manufactures costumes for adults and children. “We put the happy in Halloween,” Berman says.
Rasta Imposta’s roots go back 20 years, when Berman created the company’s signature product: a hat with sewn-in fake dreadlocks made out of felted wool. Since then, the company has grown to offer 1,200 items that were born from Berman’s imagination and licensed properties such as Kool-Aid, Tootsie Roll candy, Tetris and Campbell’s Soup.
Additionally, the company sells costumes based on such hit films as “Ted,” “The Hangover,” “Dumb and Dumber” and “Caddyshack.” Berman’s sister, COO Jodi Berman, credits Rasta Imposta’s success to its creativity.
“We were the ones that introduced humor costumes as a category in the industry,” she declares. “We’re always at the forefront of the line. Our largest competitors are chasing us [as] we set the trends and tones.”
Rasta Imposta’s status as a family run business also gives it an advantage over competitors, Robert Berman says. While his sister is the company’s COO, his wife, Tina Berman, is its chief creative officer. Together, “We have the ability to act on our feet quickly if there is a new trend, or a hot license,” he says.
When making decisions, Rasta Imposta tries to get all three partners involved. “But we realize time is of the essence, and our lives get pretty busy,” he admits. “So we have learned to trust each other within our special realms, whether it be sales, design or production. It’s always good to communicate and have lunch as often together as possible.”
Rasta Imposta never loses sight of values such as business integrity, but it also drives people to be original and imaginative as well, Berman says. “We celebrate creativity,” he declares.
“The culture here is kind of crazy in a sense that I am the CEO, but you may find me trying on a costume,” he describes, noting that many workers have stayed loyal to the company. “They enjoy coming here and designing.”
Additionally, Rasta Imposta keeps a positive attitude when it comes to competition. “While we wish we would have come up with a great idea that another company had thought of before us, we think competition breeds a more great environment for future success,” he asserts. “We applaud other companies when they are more creative than us.”
Rasta Imposta’s recent great ideas include a new line of Halloween hoodies that give their wearers a simple costume, including a banana, a beer bottle and one modeled after the Grateful Dead bears. “We look at the Hoodies as a line that keeps Rasta Imposta on store shelves past Halloween,” Berman says.
The ever-changing retail industry keeps Rasta Imposta on its toes, Berman says. “[We keep] trying to figure out how to support our brick-and-mortar stores with the best service and pricing, while keeping our online retailers happy,” he describes.
“We also have a growing mass market business, and this throws a kink into the big question of how to keep the mom-and-pop, specialty, Internet and mass-market customers interested in our product,” he says. “One way is to differentiate and offer specials that are unique to each sector.”
Rasta Imposta is also focused on opening different channels, avenues and product lines, Jodi Berman says. “We’re trying to be one step ahead of the industry in general,” she says.
For instance, Rasta Imposta’s Waver Costumes division allows businesses to promote themselves through customized costumes for mascots. “You can attract people into your business or stores,” Robert Berman says.
He adds that Rasta Imposta plans to never stop looking forward. “My first sales representative I ever hired, who I now consider a mentor, told me, ‘If you are in a running race and constantly looking over your shoulder, worrying about your competitor, you will never win the race,’” Berman recalls. “‘[You need to] keep looking forward.’ That has been my mission – look forward, improve and try to love what you do.”
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