FRANK TOLEDANO ’90
Like it has been for so many Woodberry boys over the past forty years, a schooltrip before Frank Toledano’s senior year wasa transformational experience.
Under the watchful eye of Bob Vasquez,Frank and other members of the class of1990 headed off for six weeks in Spain in thesummer of 1989.
“Woodberry in Spain was the
biggest thing I did as a student,”
Growing up in Asheboro,
North Carolina, Frank had
no idea that he’d build a global
business, work with some of the
world’s leading fashion and hospitality
brands, and spend much of each year flying
between offices in North Carolina and Italy.
And, better yet, that he’d do it all as the CEOof a business named after his high school’smascot.
Tiger Imports — now known as TigerLeather — was born in 2000, shortly afterFrank’s ten-year Woodberry reunion. Hewas looking for a new business venture anddiscovered that the world’s top design anddecoration firms needed a source of qualityleather as they tackled major buildingprojects for hotel chains, cruise lines, andother high-end clients.
“We target the top design firms in the
world, who work with high-end businesses,”
Frank says. “The design firms use our leather
across their projects, whether it’s design
fixtures at the Four Seasons or bar stools at
the Palms Casino.”
A key on these projects is delivering the
right type of leather for each space or use.
A casino bar stool, for example, is bound to
have a few drinks spilled on it over the years
and needs to be treated so that the liquid
won’t stain and ruin the seat. A decorative
piece behind a hotel’s check-in counter
won’t take nearly as much wear and tear as
that bar stool or a comfortable chair in the
lobby, of course. Plus there’s the need to offer
products in almost every conceivable color
Cruise ships and bars. Boutique hotels andglobal brands. These days you can walk intoluxury properties on every continent and findTiger Leather products. But it doesn’t happeneasily. Frank estimates that he and his twovice presidents each fly about 150,000 milesa year to meet with customers and overseeprojects. The day he spoke to me, he wasdriving along an Italian highway two weeksbefore Christmas, checking in on thecompany’s tannery partners andhis warehouse operationsthat are based in the Venetoregion of northeastern Italy.
On his calendar for thecoming weeks were trips toThailand, home to the US,back to Italy, back to the US,Italy again, and then a stop inLondon.
“When I was growing up inAsheboro, I had zero clue I’d be doingsomething like this,” Frank says.
Coming to Woodberry exposed him to
“a lot of smart guys and a lot of competitive
guys,” Frank says. That sense of healthy
competition — of working to always get
better — has been invaluable in his work as a
A strong sense of marketing and a focus oncustomer service have also helped.
“We started at the dawn of the internetand were working via email in the late 1990s,and in the early 2000s we made our web andmarketing presence look bigger and moresophisticated than our company actuallywas,” he says.
But if marketing helped win some earlyjobs, great products coupled with impeccableservice have grown the business.
“Now we are one of the top two leather