Paula Cowell-Yench has helped steer Europe Imports to its major supplier status in the tile industry through her energy and drive.  She remains single-minded when it comes to providing products and service with distinction.

The year 2018 could turn out to be a banner year for Europe Imports. Managing director, Paula Cowell-Yench and her team were recently awarded Supplier of the Year by the Swimming Pool & Spa Association (SPASA), a significant accolade for a business known for being exclusive distributors of Spanish-made Ezarri mosaics.

“To win the Supplier of the Year award is undoubtably the pinnacle of my working career. I am so incredibly proud my entire team for the dedication and passion they have always given to myself and the company.

“We began marketing the win the next day and have not stopped yet! I am also proud of the continued growth and excellent reputation we have gained over the years. We have developed wonderful long-standing relationships with our clients and our supply partners. We believe they deserve the ultimate in customer service as this is critical in any business for success. Bring on 2019!”

Starting point

Paula told Tile Today she admired the beauty of the Ezarri mosaics tiles when they were being used by pool builder on a project. More importantly, she recognised the potential for Australian tile store owners in stocking the range. “I was so taken by their beauty and versatility that I purchased some tiles off him and started mailing samples of Ezarri tiles to tile shops in NSW to see if there was an interest,” she explains.

The first sale enquiry came very quickly and Paula saw this as an indication that she had a chance to start a business. Soon after, she flew to Spain to visit the Ezarri factory and view its ranges and meet with management and staff. “Upon my return I was convinced that I should purchase my first container of Ezarri glass mosaic tiles,” Paula said.

Early on, Ezarri in Spain took notice of Paula’s dedication and passion to the brand through her proactive initiatives in advertising, marketing and merchandising. A focus on the visual aspects of the business and working hard for her clients has always been a priority.

“It was during this time that Ezarri offered exclusive distribution, which was a dream come true for us and an affirmation of their confidence and trust in us. Our consistent annual growth has helped to establish Ezarri as the No.1 in glass mosaic tile in the Australian market for swimming pools,” she said.

As most people experienced in business know, trust and respect are hallmarks of a mutually beneficial professional relationship. But they are even more important when there is a lot of distance between the two entities.

“I have always believed that your supply partners are equally as important as your customers and you should give them equal respect,” said Paula.

“Your payments should be on time, every time, to develop that trust which is crucial. Our relationship over the years with Ezarri has developed into such a wonderful one that is respected by both companies. Our container orders have increased every year since 2004 which is also a strong indication to Ezarri that we are serious in our pursuit of growth along with them.”

Paula had the foresight to have long-terms plans when she wanted to take on the Ezarri products for distribution. “From the outset, I planned to eventually carry the vast majority of the range that Ezarri produced. Over the years, we have been organically increasing the volume of products. We are proud to say we now carry 95% of the range in varying quantities based on popularity and fashion trends,” she said.

The number of significant projects around the country that feature Ezarri mosaics include pools at the Park Royal hotel (Sydney), Meriton apartment developments, Darling Harbour (Sydney), Westfields Pacific Fair (QLD), Jubilee Towers (Hornsby, NSW), North Rocks Swim School (Sydney) and retirement homes.

Talent and skills

After working in the highly competitive FMCG (Fast Moving Consumer Goods) sector as a manager for supermarket for almost a decade, Paula is very well-equipped to manage growth at Europe Imports. Her skills and experience in this area also include marketing, advertising and knowing how to provide high levels of customer service. They translated effectively to the tile industry.

In a relatively short period of time, the company gained a reputation for quality products with an extremely high standard of customer service that continues to drive the company forward.

Family business

Four years into the business, Paula said she was very pleased to have her son Carl Yench join the business, bringing with him his knowledge in business development and sales. He worked across all aspects of Europe Imports including warehousing, sales, technology, procurement, and eventually worked his way up into the role of assistant director working alongside Paula.

“During Carl’s time at the company, he developed a technical process relating to the installation of glass mosaics, adhesive and grout products. Carl also expanded the business with the introduction of natural stone, porcelain, adhesives, grouts and other products to complement the growing popularity of our Ezarri range.

“PDS (Poolside Design & Supply) was then formed as a part of Europe Imports servicing trade clients,” she said.

Europe Imports has also created the Gem range under the Ezarri name, designed and developed by both Paula and Carl, who came up with the idea to form the company’s Australian Designer series of tiles. Paula explains the staff were also given the opportunity to design mixes that she and Carl thought would suitable for the local market and enhance its mixes from Ezarri.

“The Australian Designer range mixes were chosen from the best designs from our staff as well as Carl and I. The outcome of this exercise was so successful that we now have 18 stunning ranges including the Gem range which have been very well received,” Paula said.

Another member of the family, Peter Cowell (Paula’s son) also recently joined the family firm. For the last 23 years, Peter has held a number of senior sales and operational roles outside Europe Imports and has joined the company as a director focused on growth.

Today Paula believes Europe Imports stands as “a highly respected company in the tile and stone industry with a strong emphasis on business ethics, quality products and customer service that is second to none”.

She added, “We are also grateful for the industry bodies who have supported us through the years.”

In addition to Paula and her sons, Carl and Peter, office manager Ashley Guevara rounds out the main leadership team at Europe Imports.

Pictured: Paula Cowell-Yench (front, centre) with the Europe Imports team.