The turning point in the 40-plus year history of Lloyd Mats was when it secured licensing deals to put logos on the custom-made floor carpets that the company makes for cars and trucks. The Northridge manufacturer has these deals with the big names in auto industry – General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co., Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V. and Porsche Cars North America Inc. Three months ago, American Honda Motor Co. and its Acura brand joined the list. Brendan Dooley, president of Lloyd, said the logos are the sizzle that sell the product. “They are what differentiates us from the run-of-the-mill product that you would buy at Target or O’Reilly (Auto Parts),” he explained. Lloyd Mats employs 55 workers, all of whom are part owners in the company. Dooley declined to state what company revenues were but said the company sales grow between 8 percent and 10 percent a year. The company produces nine brands of mats, from the top-of-the-line Luxe and Ultimat to the all-weather Rubbertite and clear vinyl Protector mats. Prices for the custom mats start at about $100. A few other U.S. manufacturers make custom fit mats such as WeatherTech and Husky Liners, but none have put together the licensing deals that Lloyd Mats has, Dooley said. Vehicle mats from overseas tend to be generic, universal fits that sell at big-box retailers for about $30, he added. “We’ve chosen not to compete at that level and to work the high end of the market and the custom fit specialty,” Dooley said. Reseller market Lloyd Levine founded the company in 1974 to make door mats and wall tapestries for hotels but that did not bring in consistent sales. So, he started making vehicle mats in 1978 and landed his first licensing deal, with Porsche, a few years later. The GM deal came along in 1994 and Lloyd now counts the Corvette brand as its biggest seller. Levine, now in his 80s, retired a few months ago as chief executive and continues to serve on the board of directors. The company originally sold its mats through new car dealers before switching over to online sales through more than 50 resellers. But after using a business-to-business model for many years, Lloyd Mats is now transitioning to a business-to-consumer model. That involves building up and promoting the company’s brand, which required Dooley to engage a marketing firm. Dan Kahn, chief executive of Kahn Media Inc., in Moorpark, said that Lloyd’s Valley heritage, hand-made product, distribution model and employee-owned story will connect with consumers. The big rival Lloyd faces is MacNeil Automotive Products Ltd., in Bolingbrook, Ill., and its WeatherTech line of floor mats and liners and other after-market accessories, Kahn said. “It is an interesting challenge because we are going up against a 900-pound gorilla but at the same time they (Lloyd Mats) have this great brand, an originator in the space and a much more handmade product,” he said. Employee ownership Levine sold the company to his employees in 1999. In addition to stock options, the employees also receive a 401(k) and medical benefits. They vote to elect the company’s board of directors and the committee overseeing the stock ownership plan. “He could have sold it for more but chose to make a deal,” Dooley said. “He did some research and made the deal to the employees.” New employees must stay for a full fiscal year and work 1,000 hours to become participants in the stock ownership plan. They start accumulating shares from day one, but it starts to vest after five years. When employees leave the company, they cash out and receive payments over a five-year period. If they leave for a new job, they must wait three years until the payments start. Retirees receive their benefits the following year. Two recent retirees, both sewing machine operators, are receiving six-figure payouts, Dooley said. “That was Lloyd’s intent – that this would be the retirement plan for people that would build up over their career and would be there when they retired,” he added. Lloyd makes its mats to order so it has no inventory waiting to ship. All it keeps in stock are the raw materials – long rolls of plastic and rubber and the yarn shipped in every week from a factory in Georgia. There are 115 different varieties of material and colors – even pink rubber. The process starts with getting the dimensions onto pattern paper. A Lloyd staffer uses a wireless mouse to trace the outline of the pattern taped onto a display tablet, which then gets stored on a computer. That pattern is then used by cutting machines to make the mats. Next comes the embroidering, done either by a machine or using an applique, a pre-embroidered logo with adhesive on one side that gets placed on the mat material. After attaching the Lloyd Mats tag, binding is added to the edge of the mat. While Porsche and Corvette enthusiasts are familiar with Lloyd Mats and its products, the average car owner is in the dark on what the company offers, Kahn said. “Because of their distribution model, the consumer probably doesn’t know their brand as well because they have always relied on multi-step distribution to get their product out,” he added. The biggest challenge for the company now is increasing sales, Dooley said. The goal is to double sales by securing licensing deals with more car makers and promote the Lloyd brand through a direct-to-consumer website that is currently in beta testing. Also, the company is building up the number of stock keeping unit numbers, or SKUs, it has for its products so that retail outlets not using Lloyd’s Mat Configurator app can sell its products, Dooley added. SKU numbers are used to help track items for inventory and to know when to reorder. The plan is to reach 1,000 SKUs in the next six months, and 2,000 SKUs in the next year, Dooley said.