Home Fires Burning

Getting Noticed

But growth came gradually. In the fall of 1996, Wall Concepts had applied for patents, finalized product design and arranged for production. The company was ready to go, but it didn't have a marketing plan. Carsel and Schneider started by going to stores where painters buy supplies-in particular, Sherwin Williams, which sells to both retailers and painting contractors. They got their product into eight Sherwin Williams stores, which landed the company its first big break.

"The buyer for Jo-Ann Etc. [the store chain affiliated with Jo-Ann Fabrics] just happened to be decorating her home during our sales test at a Sherwin Williams in March 1999," says Schneider. "She noticed how our inventory kept going down and decided to try our product in her stores." The test went well; today, the SpongePrince is in more than 60 Jo-Ann Etc. stores nationwide. The partners have also managed to sell to 22 Home Depots in Ohio.

With success at brick-and-mortar stores under their belts, Zuchowski decided to approach QVC. "[SpongePrince] was the type of item I thought would do great on TV," he says.

He was right. January 18, 2000, was the date of their first QVC airing, and the SpongePrince has run every six weeks since. According to Zuchowski, they sell $60,000 to $70,000 worth in every eight-minute spot.

In fact, the product sold so well that in August 2000, Q Direct, the QVC division that sells to retailers, signed an exclusive licensing and distribution agreement with Wall Concepts.

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This article was originally published in the July 2001 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Home Fires Burning.

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