Home Fires Burning

Secrets of Success

What can you learn from Wall Concepts' story?

Start With What You Know. Carsel and Schneider were painters who bought most of their supplies from Sherwin Williams. When they and Zuchowski had their product ready, they went to those stores first. Later, they approached Ohio Home Depot stores, then finally QVC. It's smart to start with customers you know, then move outward as you gain experience.

Keep Up the Momentum. Momentum creates a sense of accomplishment and makes you look more appealing to potential customers. When you start small, you can do demonstrations and make frequent store visits. Inventors are frequently asked about their reorder rate (the percentage of buyers who buy the product more than once). You're unlikely to get reorders unless you make special efforts to help stores sell your product.

Keep Looking and Keep Trying. Zuchowski found a partner in Valspar Corp. just by visiting home improvement stores to see what was new. You can't afford to hope for orders from a few potential customers-you need to search out every possible sales outlet and keep asking those outlets for orders. "You can't expect anyone to give you an order on the first call," says Zuchowski. "You have to keep calling."

Be Open to Partnerships. "It's important to have someone check on your merchandise in every store," Schneider says. "Most inventors don't have the resources for that. They need partners to provide an effective retail interface at major stores." That's how Wall Concepts' partners Q Direct and Valspar Corp. helped make SpongePrince a national brand.

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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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