Twenty three years ago, David Kaufman started his stone supply firm, Kaufman Stone, located in San Juan City.
Stones, then, were out of his mind. But a financial crisis led him to a new business that, like its products, has endured through time.
“I was in the 3D Animation business when I got back from Oxford for my post graduate studies,” Kaufman recalls. “I was interested in technology so I put up a 3D animation film business. I wanted to be like Spielberg and DreamWorks so we began doing a lot of 3d animation for the developers so that’s how we ended up knowing the developers like Megaworld, Fil Estate, Filinvest, Essensa and Robinsons. We did 3D walk-throughs, where one “experienced” entering a building and seeing what it would look like, even as it grew up from the ground. It was all virtual reality, of course. It’s very common now but not common 30 years ago.”
But then came the economic downturn which saw a lot of real estate developers discontinuing their projects. Kaufman explains, “The developers couldn’t finish the projects because they ran out of funds, and so they couldn’t afford to finish their buildings. Consequently, they decided not to pay their animators like myself.” When the business ended up becoming unviable, the developers decided that they did not need to promote buildings that they did not finish because they had no more funds.”
Kaufman had no choice but to explore other business possibilities. “What I learned in Oxford came to mind. Which is to do business with developing nations. In Oxford, they teach you trade, not aid. Business to business relationships between developing nations.”
“The first thing that came to mind was to do business with India. Indonesia, Thailand, among others, and that’s how I discovered my sources for these stones.”
Kaufman stone has since grown big, becoming the leading natural stone supplier specializing in limestone, slate, travertine, onyx and agglomerated marble. Since its inception in 1997, the company has expanded its spectrum of products and services.
Today it is the foremost one-stop-shop for stone supply and installation. Stones are used for counter tops, facades, living room floors, shower floors, driveways, patios, lanais, stone pools and pool decks. They come in standard sizes of 600x600mm, 900x900mm, 1200x1200mm and 1250x3050mm.
Can the the average home owner afford stone? He says, “A lot of people say stone is more expensive, that it costs more than tiles. Let’s say it costs twice as much as the tile. But the thing is a tile will last for only five years. Then it will start to break one at a time, and then two and then ten. In five years, you have about 15 to 20 percent.
Kaufman encourages the use of local stones. “We have a marble industry. We have a machuca industry, a terra cota industry. We have adobe, sandstone, we have so much natural resources. “We have handmade tiles and all that is dying because we buy tiles from abroad, thinking they are cheap, not realizing that they do not last.”
He shares, “Stone is about lifetime. When I sell you a stone, the biggest happiness is you’ll never see me again in your life. Why? Because it lasts forever.”
Kaufman concludes, “When I began Kaufman Stone 23 years ago I had no idea half my life would be dedicated to this business. Thinking back, it’s so wonderfuI to have had the unique privilege to learn first hand from best designers in the Philippines. To this day, I cherish each chance I get to observe and be part of the creative process of these masters of Filipino design. Every project molds me and the company and I are personally so grateful.
“We have the widest and most exotic range of stone in the Philippines because I actively seek out exotic origins. Some countries, one might say is a little unsafe in term of my physical safety. It’s not just money for me. It’s all about adventure and the hunt. I thrive with the discovery of new materials from exotic lands. We work very hard to deliberately give preference to developing nations like ourselve. This I believe is how a business can help a fellow developing nation. Give them preference.”