Take a Back Seat
What: Storage packs that hang on the backs of students' chairs
Who: Ann McAlear of Seat Sack Inc.
Where: Naples, Florida
When: Started in 1999
How much: $20,000
Ann McAlear didn't know she was starting a business when she first came up with the Seat Sack. She had simply made the pouches for her daughter's kindergarten class so students could store everything from folders to art supplies, and the teacher could stay organized. Running her own manufacturing company kept her busy enough, so she obtained a patent on her invention and pushed it aside. But when she kept getting requests from teachers for Seat Sacks, McAlear, 52, realized her little product had big potential.
Two years after selling her manufacturing company, McAlear started Seat Sack Inc. Working out of a small building with one employee and a few sewing machines, McAlear began sending out postcards and free samples to local school districts. "I wanted to see how many I could sell," she says. "I thought, 'If I can pay my rent for one year, I'll do it,' and I did."
Made from a cotton and polyester blend, the Seat Sacks are laminated on one side with flame-retardant vinyl--an easy-to-clean fabric. Although the Seat Sack only comes in one color (blue), it does come in different sizes, from the kindergarten chair to the adult chair. And with a minimum of 150 orders, teachers and schools can request a personalized logo or even the school's mascot on their Seat Sacks. The product retails at www.seatsack.com for $9.95, but McAlear offers them to school districts for $5.97 each, and she projects 2006 sales of $1.2 million.