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MUSEOWEB dell'economia varesina

Felli


The entrepreneurial training and the establishment of the business


The company's origins date back to 1880, with an activity begun in Gemonio by an entrepreneur from Milan, who took over a mill and exploited its power in order to manufacture sacred ornaments. In 1914, due to economic difficulties on behalf of the owner, the company was taken over by Pietro Felli and Isidoro Bodini, as equal partners, both from Gemonio.

Pietro Felli had been trained as a stonemason in the United States, where he had emigrated in the late nineteenth century. This experience provided him with the technical skills necessary in order to continue manufacturing metallic objects for use as sacred Catholic ornaments (chalices, pyxes, tabernacles, candlesticks, etc.), and the company rapidly grew to employ nearly fifteen workers. In 1935, the factory opened a store in Milan in order to better serve its customers. Pietro Felli died two years later and the management of the business was assumed by his children, Alfredo and Tullio. Tullio died in 1942, however, at just over thirty years of age, and the management of the company was left in the hands of Alfredo Felli, who remained at the helm until the end of World War II. In 1947, Isidoro Bodini, who had grown old and tired, decided to retire from the company and his shares were purchased by the family, following a brief stint in the hands of Luigi Andreoli. Paolo Fraschini, the husband of Tullio's daughter, Franca, who came from an old family of tanners from Brenta and was mainly occupied by the management of his own business, began to take an interest in the company, albeit sporadically. In 1950, Alfredo Felli sold his company shares to his son, Luciano, and the company opened a new store in Rome the same year.

 

From 1960 to 1977


In 1960, Franca Felli and her husband, Paolo Fraschini, to whom Luciano Felli later sold his company shares in 1961, became the company directors, while Paolo's brother, Luigi Fraschini, was appointed as legal representative. The latter, a chemist, took charge of the issues regarding the company's facilities, such as the plating baths, while his brother, Paolo, dedicated himself to the marketing of the products.

The creation of sacred ornaments was accompanied by the production of semi-antique items, or rather objects produced using ??ancient moulds, as well as the reproduction of past models. The review and modification of the Church liturgy brought on by the Second Vatican Council, which opened in 1962, led to a complete abandonment of certain liturgical objects, or else to their radical simplification, thereby significantly altering the market. A number of historical sacred ornament manufacturers closed, such as Bertarelli in Milan, whose moulds were purchased by Paolo Fraschini in order to save them from destruction. The Felli enterprise also experienced a drastic reduction in sales and tried to compensate for the losses in its own sector by turning to the similar field of sports awards.

In fact, during the early 1960s, sports awards were prestigious objects made ??of hand-chiseled and well finished silver or brass, and their manufacturing techniques were therefore quite similar to those used for sacred ornaments. This allowed the company to make use of the same equipment and to gain access to a market which, while still small, was characterized by extremely high potential for expansion. Little by little, in fact, the company began to focus on manufacturing sports trophies, partially abandoning the production of sacred ornaments.

Starting from 1965, this ??sports sector began to evolve and grow at an exponential rate. By 1968, the number of employees had already risen to a total of 55 and the company was set to become one of Italy's leading manufacturers of cups and trophies. The individuals that led the company during this post-conciliar phase were Paolo and Luigi Fraschini, who were assisted by company director Pierluigi Corbetta.

Around 1975, the year of maximum expansion for the sector and the enterprise, the total number of employees reached 104. At that time, the company's production was comprised of 95% sports trophies, with only the remaining 5% being dedicated to sacred ornaments. Antonio Fraschini, son of Franca Felli and Paolo Fraschini, joined the company in 1978 at twenty-three years of age. After having obtained his diploma in accountancy, and following a brief stint at university, Antonio opted for a career at his mother's company, while his sister, Gloria, dedicated herself their father's tannery business.

 

From 1978 to the present


In the early eighties, however, the company entered a period of crisis due to the elimination of prestigious sports trophies in favour of more simple, much less expensive objects, to be distributed to all participants of a sporting event.

This modified the type of production and, in order to reduce costs, the company began purchasing various components on the market and limited itself to assembly operations alone. This was a reversal of Felli's traditional working style, which was focused on maintaining the entire production cycle in-house, from the sheet of metal to the finished product. Under these new circumstances, the low unitary turnover forced the company to hire more staff and to increase fixed costs, thereby increasing its management activities and crippling its economic balance. Antonio Fraschini identified a return to the original sacred ornaments sector as a viable solution to this problem, and began restoring lost contacts in a market in which the company's good name was still remembered. In 2006, following the sudden death of Antonio Fraschini, his wife Cinzia, who had been involved in the company's administrative management for years, continued leading the company in this direction.

The company currently has 16 employees, as well as a solid network of highly trusted representatives. It distinguishes itself from the competition thanks to its continuous research and development of new products; marketing is not direct, but rather takes place through a network of resellers that the company contacts directly each year, preferring this style of publicity to that of participating in industry trade fairs. In addition to the production of sacred ornaments, the company also maintains a small trade in sports trophies for the local market.

Thus, starting in 1983, the company began a long phase of internal restructuring. In 1984, the company became a limited liability company: the board of directors was comprised of Paolo Fraschini (president), Franca Felli, Antonio and Gloria Fraschini. The turnover remained unaltered, but was achieved by producing a smaller number of objects of higher unit value. This led to a gradual reduction in staff, a move that initially took its toll on the entire company, as Paul Fraschini saw resorting to layoffs as a disgrace.

In 1988, the company was transformed into a joint stock company and, once the restructuring had been completed in the early 1990s, it devoted itself almost exclusively to the production of sacred ornaments, an industry in which it is currently one of Italy's most important companies. Nearly 50 % of the company's annual production is exported, and is mainly destined for Europe, Latin America, North America, Australia, Asia and Africa. In 2006, following the sudden death of Antonio Fraschini, his wife Cinzia, who had been involved in the company's administrative management for years, continued leading the company in this direction.

The company currently has 16 employees, as well as solid network of highly trusted representatives. It distinguishes itself from the competition thanks to its continuous research and development of new products; marketing is not direct, but rather takes place through a network of resellers that the company contacts directly each year, preferring this style of publicity to that of participating in industry trade fairs. In addition to the production of sacred ornaments, the company also maintains a small trade in sports trophies for the local market.