First Prize Glass of Cincinnati which had been owned and directly managed by the Muellhardt family since 1889 has recently undergone major reorganization and managerial changes. These changes were triggered by the recent passing of retired company president Ernst Muellhardt at the age of 97 and the subsequent decision of his 72 year old son Gerhardt to step down from his position as CEO and enjoy retirement.
Long-term economic conditions and a number of family concerns prompted the decision to covert the family business into a corporation and offer stock to the public. Members of the family did retain a majority of the stock and remain the primary owners of the company although they will no longer direct all of its daily operations.
- The new management team includes a combination of people promoted from within the company and others hired from the outside.
- The company's new CEO, James Miller is one of those hired from the outside. For the past 10 years he was production manager for Waterford Crystal in Ireland. He issued the following statement immediately after being named CEO:
|" We're trying to shift gears from being a little but very nice and very stable family business to being a world class, 21st century corporation. To survive and thrive in today's intensively competitive business environment, First Prize Glass has to make some changes in the way it's always operated, and we definitely need to do a better job of making ourselves known here in the United States and around the world. "|
Originally called Muellhardt Glassworks, the company changed its name to First Prize Glass in 1895 after its goblets and glass sculptures won more than a dozen blue ribbons for innovative industrial techniques, design, craftsmanship, and artistry at the 1895 World's Fair.
Because Gerhardt Muellhardt considered himself a savvy promoter and was fairly successful in generating publicity for himself and for the company, First Prize Glass never employed a public relations professional nor hired a public relations consulting firm. That's one of the first things James Miller wants to change.
The 21st Century Mission of
First Prize Glass
To maintain and further enhance First Prize Glass' worldwide reputation for design, artistry, and elegance in hand-blown glass, exquisite crystal, and glass sculptures.
To expand into markets beyond the United States and achieve worldwide name recognition for high-quality stemware.
To achieve annual increases in net profits while maintaining or expanding market share and penetration in the global stemware and glass sculpture markets.
To explore options for expanding product lines and achieving greater diversification without abandoning the company's century-long roots and identification with the fine glass industry and without compromising its First Prize reputation for quality.
To provide all shareholders with an annual combined dividend and capital gains return on their investment equal to at least one-half percent higher than the glass industry average.
Goblets are the most well-established product line and the most reliable in generating a steady stream of revenue.
- First Prize goblets are high-quality stemware and compete with Waterford Crystal.
- Goblets sell for $22-$85 per stem and are distributed nationwide in the US.
- Annual sales and First Prize's share of the total high-end goblet market have remained fairly constant for decades.
Production line sculptures are mass-produced cast glass figurines from three inches to three feet tall.
- They range in price from $5 to $500 and are sold worldwide, especially in museum gift shops where they're becoming top-selling items.
- Sculpture sales and market share fluctuate unpredictably. Success and high sales are entirely dependent on new figures catching the public fancy and becoming "hot" collectors' items.
Custom sculptures are hand-crafted one-of-a-kind
originals, commissioned replicas of existing designs, or individually personalized variations of production line sculptures.
- They can be as basic as a crystal bowl which has a personal monogram engraved into it or as specialized as a life-sized, three-dimensional portrait in glass. Prices range from $500 to $500,000.
- Custom glass sculptures have become popular substitutes for trophies in number of national and international competitions.
- Many long-time employees of the company and virtually all of the artisans on staff view custom sculptures as the most important and prestigious products First Prize offers and consider them critical to the company's reputation and its future success.
Employment and financial data
- 67 full-time employees;
- average length of employment: 23 years;
- 15 part-time employees;
- primarily high school and college students;
- Last year's gross revenues were $38 million.
- Since the company had always been privately held, previous years' financial data were never announced and are still not being made available to the public. Last year's figures were released only because a public offering of stock requires financial disclosure.
- Last year's net profit was $4.2 million (11 percent).
- As noted above, this is the only profit figure ever publicly released. However, long-time employees and members of the local financial community widely believe that the company has made a profit every year of its existence except for 1932 and 1933 during the depths of the Great Depression.