Giving Back to Get Ahead

By Curt Rapp, an EO Atlanta member and founder and CEO of The Tile Doctor

With more than 20 years in the tile industry, I’ve worked for some of the largest companies in the world, in dozens of different positions. It’s an industry that I know very well and one about which I’m extremely passionate. However, as the years went by I developed a longing for something more. The tile industry was all I knew as a professional, and as much as I enjoyed working in the field, I had a desire to use my knowledge and passion to help the community and make homes safer.

In my quest to find a way to give back, I decided to focus on a few areas that the industry was trying to improve, but didn’t have viable options. Companies often would throw away outdated, off-spec or excess materials, adding to our already overflowing landfills. I took on the challenge to find an alternative use for these materials, and contacted Habitat for Humanity International (HFHI). From that, Tile Partners for Humanity was born.

Tile Partners works with Habitat to utilize this excess inventory, raise awareness of HFHI within the industry and to solicit donations of materials, labor and other support for HFHI. We have formed partnerships with manufactures and installers to donate their products and time, and have provided more than US$20 million in support since inception. The organization has become a leader in keeping excess tile and less desirable products out of the landfill, and for the first time has rallied the entire industry to support one cause.

As an entrepreneur, you can win awards in your field and climb the industry totem pole, but at the end of the day, what’s it really in service of? I applied what I’ve learned in my career to help improve my community and the environment. Here are a few tips I learned along the way:

  1. Leverage your knowledge. Take what you know and figure out a way to utilize that skill to help others. Look at all of your talents and contacts, and find out how you can use each to help get your ideas off the ground. 
  2. Take ownership of your goals. Don’t be afraid to take a leadership position. Many ideas get pushed to the wayside from people hesitant to drive them. If you’re passionate about something, pursue it.
  3. Connect with partners. Seek partners that can enhance the project. You don’t have to do it alone; find colleagues and vendors willing to work with you on your initiative. They can fill the voids that are needed for you to achieve your goals.

Curt Rapp has more than 20 years of experience in the tile industry, and is recognized for his extensive knowledge of purchasing and product development, importing, manufacturing, distribution and home center sales. Curt is certified by the Ceramic Tile Institute of America as a Certified Tile Consultant.

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