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Custom-Made Convenience

This entrepreneur's painting the town--and doing it comfortably.

What: Paint pail with a custom-fit handle
Who: Mark Bergman of Bercom International LLC
Where: Chanhassen, Minnesota
When: Started in 2002
Startup costs: Approximately $300,000

No stranger to entrepreneurial ventures, Mark Bergman had been dabbling in inventions since 1986, from baby spoons to children's shoelaces. But it wasn't until 2000 that he came upon the idea he'd been waiting for.

While painting around his house and using an empty coffee can to hold paint, Bergman decided to make a strap out of duct tape to help hold the can after his hand got tired. He used it for a week, realized the business potential of a strapped-on paint holder and presented it to his patent attorney.

At the time, Bergman, 50, was working in Minneapolis, where he shared office space with a sales rep for the paint business. "I showed him the prototype and some design ideas, and he thought he could sell it with the other products," recalls Bergman. "Once other rep groups got excited about the product, I had the confidence to get it placed in retail stores."

Handy Paint Pail started under Bercom International LLC and features a custom-fit adjustable strap, a magnet mounted on the inside of the pail to hold the brush, and a built-in scraper lip to remove excess paint. "The biggest challenge was trying to get retail stores or chains interested, because most buyers don't want to set up a new vendor for one item," says Bergman.

To push the product, his sales reps went to retailers and presented samples to every buyer who would grant them a meeting. The approach was successful: Today, Handy Paint Pail can be found in nearly all paint stores from coast to coast, as well as most home centers, including Home Depot and Lowe's.

With 2007 sales of about $6 million, Bergman plans to expand his line of products--including a smaller version of the Handy Paint Pail and a bungeelike hook to connect pails to ladders--and consequently double the size of his business within the next two to three years.

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This article was originally published in the March 2008 print edition of Entrepreneur's StartUps with the headline: Custom-Made Convenience .

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