Home Fires Burning

The Crown Jewel

With success on TV, Wall Concepts was growing. Still, its only national distribution came from Jo-Ann Etc. stores and QVC. In his search for more outlets, Zuchowski discovered that Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouses, a 660-store chain found mostly in the East and Midwest, carried a line of Valspar Corp. glazing paints, which are often used in faux finishing to achieve a translucent effect. Zuchowski believed the SpongePrince would be a perfect fit with the line.

Valspar agreed to test four of Wall Concepts' SpongePrince patterns in several stores. The company also agreed to provide in-store representation and training in the use of SpongePrince products. At press time, Valspar had already agreed to carry them in Lowe's stores nationwide.

Two key early accounts for Wall Concepts Plus Inc. were Sherwin Williams and Home Depot stores in Ohio. In both cases, the company's founders used the same approach. First, they talked to managers of the local stores and solidified their support for Wall Concepts' SpongePrince. Then they asked those managers to set up meetings with the stores' district sales managers, who arranged for the SpongePrince to be sold on a test basis.
District managers are very important for inventors seeking large accounts. They have the authority to set up tests, approve limited purchases and, most important, be an advocate for your product with the companies' purchasing departments. Once a store manager tells you he or she likes your product, ask when the district manager is coming to the store. Have the manager set aside a few minutes for you during the visit, and you just might be able to line up your first customer.

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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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