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MailTribune.com
  • Little Snap Capps get Europe's attention

    Local business partners hawked the gadget at a meeting of European Union distributors
  • Surrounded by a slew of purveyors of high-tech gadgets and services, Bill Allen and Eric Kaufman met with trade representatives from 28 European nations last month in Warsaw, Poland.
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  • Surrounded by a slew of purveyors of high-tech gadgets and services, Bill Allen and Eric Kaufman met with trade representatives from 28 European nations last month in Warsaw, Poland.
    The Allen Vallarta Wholesale partners were marketing something far simpler, Snap Capps, which snap onto the top of soda and beer cans to keep them fresh and keep them from spilling.
    They joined representatives of 49 other small businesses to hawk their wares to distributors throughout the European Union. With everything from housing-frame systems to nuclear-facilities systems to solar panels on the docket, Snap Capps managed to capture the majority of attention along with Micro-Blaster II, a rock- and concrete-breaking device developed by Ezebreak, a West Virginia firm.
    "Those two products blew away everyone," Kaufman said.
    The Commerce Department several years ago began reducing obstacles for American companies to do foreign trade by bringing their owners together with distributors from other countries in one place.
    The first Trade Winds Forum was held in Crystal City, Va., in 2007 and a second was held last spring in Istanbul, Turkey.
    The success of the first two led the Commerce Department to restrict last month's Warsaw Trade Winds to 50 companies for the three-day session, with another 15 to 18 companies invited for the first two days.
    Snap Capps was among those invited to the primary event, while Klamath Falls manufacturing giant Jeld-Wen was part of the shorter program.
    Kaufman, who formerly practiced law, and Allen, the marketer, established contact with the Commerce Department's Portland office last year after submitting a four-page application.
    "This is actually killing a lot of birds with one stone, where you can meet with 20 or more countries at once rather than one country at a time," Kaufman said. "It did wonders for us — I've received four e-mails this (Wednesday) morning from three countries."
    There is serious interest from France, Germany, the Czech Republic and Poland. "We've made inroads into two other countries, Finland and Serbia, as well," Kaufman said.
    Allen considers the 19-hour Medford-to-San Francisco-to-Munich-to-Warsaw trip a success if for no other reason than it dramatically extends the company's scope.
    Inventor Carl Stufflett and his partner, David Gran, sold the exclusive rights to Allen Vallarta Wholesale two years ago. Both of the founders earned a "six-figure" income from the invention last year, Allen said.
    In the first two years of production, there have been 5.2 million Snap Capps distributed for retail in the United States. Allen said 4 million caps were purchased in 2008, despite a late slump tied to the recession."We're getting letters from major retailers telling us they don't want to authorize any new (items) until their customer counts are back up," he said. "By going internationally, we can double our business back up."
    Depending what happens in the next weeks, Allen said as many as 8 million Snap Capps could be manufactured and distributed this year. "I think we should have contracts to put together in six to eight weeks," Allen said. "People from Spain didn't think it would work in Spain because they don't buy knickknacks, but Ukraine, Germany and Serbia were ecstatic."
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