Born and raised in Johannesburg South Africa, LA based Entrepreneur and Venture Capitalist Michael Dodo understands what it takes to successfully identify, cultivate, oversee and drive financially successful businesses in today’s rollercoaster economy. His sharp business acumen and visionary approach has deemed him one of the most sought after private investors by small businesses in need of a capital injection, mentoring and solid corporate leadership. We were granted a rare invitation to come his home, sit with Michael, and garner some key insight on his successes, his failures and what’s in store in his future.
SS: Thank you so much taking the time to sit down with us Mr. Dodo. We know how incredibly busy you are.
MD: (He laughs) Please… just call me Mike. And no problem at all. I’m very happy to be with you.
SS: OK, Mike. Would you please share your story in business with our readers?
MD: Sure… Ok… Well, I was born in South Africa, as you can probably tell from my accent. (He smiles) I earned my Bachelor of Commerce degree from the University of South Africa and started out working at the Mercantile National Bank of South Africa, first as a Credit Manager, and then up the ranks to Corporate Finance Director. I guess I’m pretty good with numbers… (He smiles again) I knew I wanted to leave ZA, and see what else was out there, so I first relocated to the Middle East for a few months, but that didn’t pan out as I had hoped. I always had my eye on immigrating to America, so, with $300 bucks in my pocket, I landed at LAX, found a Travel Lodge I could afford for $17, and looked up my father’s old buddy who was kind enough to show me around and introduce me to some of his business contacts. I landed a job as the controller of a garment hang tag and label business, and later became their VP of Finance and Operations. We took them public over the period of time, and did a lot of business in Mexico, Hong Kong, and New York. I spent an enormous amount of time in Hong Kong, running their Hong Kong division, and then ran their Mexican division before leaving the company in 2001.
After Tag-It Pacific, I bought my first US company with a partner- TLD (Triple L Distribution), the second largest re-distributor of dry grocery and equipment supplies to the food service industry in the West. During my tenure, TLD’s sales grew from $16 million to $128 million, with a transportation fleet of 70 tractor trailers, and five fully stocked warehouses. I was then approached by outside investors in FHI Heat, a professional grade hair tool company, to replace their current CEO and restructure the company for future growth. So now, I’m in the beauty business. And shortly thereafter, I bought West Central Produce, renamed it West Central Foodservice after some time, and grew the company to one of the largest premium wholesale food, beverage and restaurant supply distributors on the West Coast with sales tracking $300M per year, a fleet of more than 150 trucks, and several distribution warehouses. West Central was my baby… I’m really proud of that company… but, you know… Covid hit… and it all went to shit… (He looks away, pauses and changes the subject).
Anyway, in 2017, I decided it was time I launch my first conglomerate- Luxury Brands LLC. and position it as a parent company to house beauty, luxury and lifestyle consumer goods under the same corporate umbrella. I placed FHI Heat, and the related hair brands I had also acquired- STYLUS, NEO BOND, Hair Veil and Daily Beauty under Luxury Brands LLC, with my eye on eventual expansion. I had been searching for just the right new property to acquire for LBL and recently discovered Youngblood Mineral Cosmetics in Chapter 11 bankruptcy. After A LOT of market research, weighing the pros and cons of getting into cosmetics and skincare, I realized that Youngblood would be the perfect fit. It’s a 25-year-old heritage brand with an enormous and dedicated cult fan base, the product line is seriously phenomenal, and it was up for grabs so… I recently bought it, I’m in the middle of restructuring the business, I installed my brother as company President, and I plan to get these amazing products out there again and distributed worldwide.
At the same time, my other business, The Dodo Group, is the same concept as LBL, but focused in Food and Beverage, which I am very familiar with. Under DG is Lodi Canning Company– a more than 100-year-old, sustainable farm-to-table vegetable canning company and Wateria– a 25-year-old, 15-step Drinking Water Purification System incorporating the Reverse Osmosis Technology. Both great companies with great growth potential.
(He pauses, looks up to think) I guess that’s it??
SS: Thank you Mike. May I ask, what do you think your greatest accomplishment is to date?
MD: Oh… that’s easy… and it has zero to do with business… My daughter. 100%
SS: Could you please give some advice to a budding entrepeneur or business owner?
MD: Sure. Don’t grow your business too fast. Incremental growth is key, with reasonable KPIs set into place. And try not to micromanage. Trust in your leadership staff to do the job they were hired to do. You don’t have to constantly look over their shoulders; they will end up resenting you for it.
I worked for Michael is the TLD days and he is one of the most respected businessmen in the food/beverage industry. I served in his A/P Department and moved onto being his Executive Assistant then a liaison in his Fleet/Transportation office. I wouldn’t have the skill set I do today if it weren’t for him.