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Be an Exclusive Distributor

Becoming the exclusive U.S. distributor of a foreign product can be a great way to secure startup success.

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This story appears in the October 2006 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

After studying Japanese in college and living in for part of the '90s, James Allard always wanted to do something in that was Japan-related. When he and Steve Rosen decided to start a business in 2004, they went to Japan to search for a product they could import to the U.S. In a Tokyo department store bathroom, they spotted an electric hand dryer made by Japanese conglomerate Mitsubishi.

"Neither of us had ever thought about hand dryers," says Allard, 40. "But we were both kind of enamored with it and thought maybe this was it." Following a year of correspondence with Mitsubishi, Allard and Rosen, 39, became exclusive U.S. distributors of the Jet Towel hand dryer, an item long popular in Japan because of its quick-drying features but never sold in the U.S. The Jet Towel license formed the foundation for Seattle-based Pacarc LLC, a five-person company for which CEO Allard expects to post yearly sales of $1.1 million by the first quarter of 2007.

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