How do you expand on success? For Graham Kjestrup, an entrepreneur in Stanton, California, the answer was inventing a new product. Kjestrup's company, National Sign Display Manufacturers Inc., produces signs that real estate agents can place in the lawns of homes for sale. In 1999, the company had grown to $3.4 million in sales and was selling its products through about 10,000 sign stores nationwide. Sounds like a picture of success-especially with sales increasing 10 to 15 percent per year-but after 13 years in business, Kjestrup wanted the company to grow even faster. Says the 38-year-old, "There was a cap on just how big the company could grow from the real estate market."
Kjestrup decided that the fastest way to boost business would be to invent a new product. So in 1999, he developed the SandScrew, a corkscrew-type piece of lightweight steel that screws into any ground surface and holds beach umbrellas, volleyball poles and flag poles. The product had great market-research results, and best of all, Kjestrup could produce it using his existing equipment.
Soon, though, a challenge presented itself: how to sell this innovation to an entirely new market-drugstores, mass merchants and sporting goods stores. After all, Kjestrup was just a small vendor with one SKU. Sales were slow in summer 2000. Earlier this year, however, Longs Drugs, a 400-store chain on the West Coast, picked up the $9.99 SandScrew. And just recently, Kjestrup received approval from Wal-Mart and Ron Jon Surf Shop as well as interest from Albertson's and other grocery store chains. Although the SandScrew has only generated about $150,000 in sales to date, Kjestrup expects profits from the product to triple next year.