I met a man! I

by francine Hardaway on September 11, 2003

I met a man!

I met a fascinating man yesterday. No, it�s not what you think � unless you think I mean another awesome entrepreneur.

I�m preparing to start my FastTrac progam on October 1, and I�m still filling out the roster of guest presenters. The FastTrac organization called and told me they had one graduate out here who was interested in meeting with me and perhaps helping out, so we picked a Scottsdale Starbucks and called a meeting.

When I arrived, Jim Packard handed me a little white package and a brochure. In it was a �Mouse Bungee,� a nifty device that holds the cord of your mouse up and out of the way while you work at the computer. He told me he recently had an order for 50,000 of them from QVC, which he has been on fourteen times.

I was impressed, but not nearly as impressed as I was an hour later, when after hearing his story and begging him to speak at my Opening Night, I scurried (late) to my next appointment.

Jim comes from Maine, and he sold copying machines as a youngster. But he decided he could give better customer service than his employer, so he started his own business when he was 27, with $500 (which was all he had). Twenty years later, he sold it to Ikon Business Systems. At the time, he had 40% market share in Maine.

As usual in these situations, he stayed on as a consultant for a few years and then became bored. So he cast about for something to do, and he heard about FastTrac. He signed up for the program because he wanted to see how the facilitator did it, to see if he could do it better. Or perhaps he could find someone else�s business to get involved in.

There were twenty-four people in his class. On the first night, the facilitator asked everyone to tell something about themselves and their business ideas. Jim took notes if anything interested him.

The next morning, he got a phone call from a fellow in the class. �I�ve got an idea,� he said, �and you said you had owned a business before, so I was hoping I could show it to you.�

�Sure,� said Jim. �Let�s have a cup of coffee.�
�I don�t drink coffee,� said the other man. �Why don�t you come over to my place.�

When Jim arrived at the apartment where the stranger lived, he was not only stunned, but fearful. When the man opened the door, the one-room apartment was all dark, lit only by a computer screen. The only furniture was a mattress against a wall, one chair, and the table with the computer on it.

�What am I doing here?� Jim thought.

The man explained that he had a product, which he showed Jim, that helped people working with computers. Jim had taken no notes on this product the previous evening at the FastTrac session, because he had no interest in computers. He didn�t even know what a �Mouse Bungee� was for.

But the guy kept on talking. It seemed he had gone to Comdex, and he had a shoebox full of business cards, because Comdex had featured his product on CNN. Among the cards was a note from Sharper Image president asking him to put the product in his catalogue, and a similar note from QVC.

But the guy was out of money and couldn�t go any further.

Jim did some quick due diligence with a couple of friends and jumped in with both feet. The first five years of the business, the other man had grossed about $30,000. In the first year of Jim�s involvement, sales grew to $500,000. QVC became a big channel, both for �Mouse Bungee� and for the company�s other product, a tempered glass mouse pad that can be personalized with photos and drawings.

In the mean time, Jim (who was supposed to be retired), moved to Scottsdale. As he settled in to the new community and Mouse Bungee became a stable company, he began to be asked to help people get on QVC. He was spending hours on the phone every evening advising other entrepreneurs about what it takes to get on, and how to keep your margins when you do get on.

So he formed another company. Guess what this company does? It acts as a representative for people who want their products on QVC.

If you want to be a part of the inaugural Arizona FastTrac program, go to www.fasttrac.org.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: