Headquarters: St. Laurent, Quebec
Top Executives: Randall Markus, Founder and President
Products: Sterling Silver and Stainless Steel Jewelry
A lifetime jewelry manufacturer fell in love with direct sales and put the two together in TOCARA.
Old Montreal is where Randall Markus got his start in the jewelry business decades ago. Today, Markus serves as Founder and President of TOCARA, a Canadian direct selling jewelry company that operates in Canada and the United States.
What started as a part-time, summer job quickly turned into a passion for young Markus. Although he started out selling the shell jewelry he made himself, Markus soon branched out.
Romancing The Stone
One day, while Markus stood talking to customers at his table, a man approached him with a proposition. “A wholesaler who was importing Italian sterling silver asked if I would like to sell some of his jewelry at my table,” said Markus.
The Italian silver jewelry ended up selling very well alongside Markus’ pieces—so well, in fact, that the Italian importer ran out of stock soon. The young entrepreneur had a problem: he needed product to sell.
“I went to the Italian trade commission, which gave me the names of Italian suppliers,” explained Markus. “I flew to Italy and forged relationships with two major Italian suppliers.” He was only 17 years old at the time.
“Our vision is not to be the biggest—it’s to be the best.” —Randall Markus, Founder and President of TOCARA
Next, Markus set his sights on two of Canada’s leading department stores. He decided to approach them to see if they might be interested in the jewelry he was making and designing.
They told him to send some sample shipments, and they would see how his jewelry sold in a few of their stores.
A few months later, Markus got the good news that both stores wanted to sell his jewelry nationally. The only problem, they told him, was that they didn’t think Markus could handle the distribution for hundreds of stores by himself.
“I promised them if they gave me the chance, I would make it happen,” says Markus, “I set my basement up into a production line, and my whole family worked with me. I made my first million dollars in sales when I was 18 years old. A business was born.”
By the mid- to late 1980s, Markus had designed and manufactured proprietary pieces that caught the interest of a large direct seller: Avon. “I built a sizable business with Avon Canada,” Markus says, “I designed jewelry, and I manufactured it for them.”
Business kept booming for Markus, who by now was traveling overseas regularly to visit suppliers. He traveled to a factory in Thailand that specialized in gems of the mineral corundum (which include sapphires and rubies). Markus watched as the factory workers culled through the sapphire gemstones and threw the dark-colored sapphire gemstones into a big vat.
“I asked them what they were doing,” Markus says. “They said, ‘This is our discard pile.’ I asked, ‘Would you mind giving me some samples?’ I brought them back to Avon U.S. Our first real deal with Avon U.S. was a collection we called Midnight Black Sapphire. By the mid-1990s, we were Vendor of the Year for Avon U.S., two years in a row.”
It was during this time when Markus saw the enormous potential of direct sales. “It wasn’t just the power of the channel, it was seeing how they recognize people and how they use interpersonal sales rather than retail sales,” he says. “I am a lifetime jewelry person who fell in love with direct sales. That’s who I am.”
Today, Markus serves on the Board of Directors of the Direct Selling Association of Canada, a position he’s held for two years, with another three-year term ahead. “I love giving back and sharing ideas,” he says.
By 2008, Markus had founded TOCARA, whose corporate headquarters are in St. Laurent, Quebec, Canada. The company’s name, TOCARA, is of Italian and Spanish origin, meaning “to touch.” “We want to touch hearts, minds and spirits with fine and forever jewelry,” Markus says. “That’s how we set ourselves apart.”
TOCARA is unlike other fashion jewelry companies that primarily sell costume jewelry. “The problem with costume jewelry—is it won’t last forever because it’s plated with gold or silver that will wear off, exposing the cheaper metal underneath,” Markus explains.
“That isn’t the case with our jewelry,” Markus says. “We’re fine and forever. With TOCARA, you can buy a piece of jewelry for essentially the same cost as costume jewelry, and it lasts a lifetime.”
Indeed, 50 percent of TOCARA’s styles are $65 and under, and every purchase comes with a lifetime warranty. TOCARA’s collection features beautiful jewelry made of rhodium-plated sterling silver and stainless steel.
“I made my first million dollars in sales when I was 18 years old.” —Randall Markus, Founder and President of TOCARA
“The company’s introduction of stainless-steel jewelry was a turning point in its history,” explains Markus. Stainless steel is a homogeneous metal, meaning it’s not plated, plus it’s hypoallergenic, durable and affordable.
“We have worked very diligently over the last decade to become innovators and industry leaders in the production of beautiful women’s and men’s stainless steel,” he says. “We want to be the true bridge between fashion and precious metal.”
A Boutique Feel
According to Markus, TOCARA has several thousand consultants, generates nearly $20 million in sales in Canada, and has just started its journey in the United States. TOCARA’s exclusive jewelry has the look and feel of a boutique product—and so does the company’s culture, which Markus describes as nurturing, caring and fieldcentric.
“We run our business like a boutique business,” Markus says. “We strive to keep those very personal relationships with people because we have that boutique mentality. No matter how big we get, consultants can count on TOCARA. We will support their decision to be a part of the TOCARA family in ways that will surprise them.”
TOCARA has operated in Canada for 11 years now, so it’s established. “We’ve honed our skills and built a beautiful business in Canada, so that when we go to the largest consumer market in the world—the United States— we can go in as a mature business,” Markus says. “Our vision is not to be the biggest—it’s to be the best.”
TOCARA strives to offer jewelry that has “crossborder appeal,” meaning it can appeal to all ages and demographics—in Canada, the United States and in other countries around the world.
As a direct selling company with a party-plan model, TOCARA sees today’s technology as the stimulus for both challenges and opportunities. The challenge is to find ways to tear people away from their devices and texts and posts—and attract them to in-person parties. But that’s where the opportunity lies as well.
“People today no longer have that face-to-face interaction—they crave it, but they don’t get it,” Markus says. “Party plan gives people the ability to return to social interaction. Jewelry doesn’t talk in a showcase. But jewelry can speak through the eyes, ears and mouths of people in a social environment.”
After spending decades in the jewelry business as well as in direct selling, Markus is at a point where he can see how everything that’s happened in his life has led him to this point. What legacy does he hope to leave?
“I want to be able to say I built a legacy direct selling business that stood the test of time—that endured for generations to come,” Markus says. “There is no better feeling in the world than to be able to watch other people’s success through something that you built.”
TOCARA Cares Supporting Breast Cancer Research
It only takes eight degrees of separation for you—and all of us—to know someone whose life has been forever changed by breast cancer. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, one in eight women born today in the United States will get breast cancer at some point.
The good news is that most women can survive breast cancer if it’s found and treated early. That’s where TOCARA shows its true, caring colors. TOCARA avidly supports breast cancer research in both the U.S. and Canada as its corporate charity cause.
“By helping to fund awareness and research into the causes of breast cancer, TOCARA contributes to preventing this disease that is near and dear to so many,” says Randall Markus, TOCARA Founder and President. The disease has personally touched Markus’s family members. “It all started with my wife’s sister, Debbie, and her battle with breast cancer six years ago,” he says. “She is a survivor today.”
Even TOCARA’s consultants support the cause through their donations. “Breast cancer has been a cause our whole company has gotten behind for many years now,” Markus says. “It is truly a part of our DNA at this point.”
TOCARA is proud to have developed a Breast Cancer Initiative program—the Debbie program—which was developed to bring awareness and raise funds in support of Breast Cancer Research. This program has raised donations of $190,000 to date.