In the beginning, Jeff Dahl wanted to use his innovation to create jobs in the Rogue Valley. It didn't quite work out that way.
Just the same, Dahl's LoopRope venture is making international headway, and he expects to easily eclipse the $1 million annual sales mark this year.
For a while, Dahl produced LoopRopes — a next-generation tie-down that improves on the bungee cord — at his Sage Road quarters in west Medford. But demand outstripped capacity, and his ability to hit a competitive price point led to making the 3- and 5-foot LoopRopes in the southern China port city of Shenzhèn, not far from Hong Kong.
So while there aren't many local jobs tied to the company's early success, the future is coming into focus. From Asia to the Atlantic and sea to shining sea in North America, LoopRope has found new markets, and there's plenty of room for growth.
Dahl created the product in the summer of 2009 and started out by making them in his garage.
"I finally got around to putting a business plan together around the end of 2011," he said.
The company sold 35,000 units in 2011, doubled it to 72,000 in 2012, and Dahl projects sales of 140,000 LoopRopes in 2013.
"We exceeded our goals the first year with sales of $350,000, and last year our (revenue) goal was $658,000 and pulled in $706,000," he said. "We hope to do $1.4 million this year. If that happens, then I'll be pulling in a paycheck — or at least paying down debt."
In the four years since he launched LoopRope, Dahl has yet to receive a paycheck from the company, he said.
He has the luxury of drawing day-to-day income from three Northern California Oil Stop franchises he owns, which frees him to pursue a greater dream.
"Everything we make goes back into the company," he said. "Last year, we spent $300,000 on marketing. I wouldn't be where I'm at today if my partner and I didn't have income coming from other sources."
Trade shows have been his bread and butter, so far.
"I've been to nine trade shows in the last month," Dahl said, rattling off stops from Orlando to Reno. "I'm living on social marketing and sales sites."
Hired guns who earn commissions handle sales and marketing both at home and abroad.
Following the Chinese New Year celebration, the factory will kick out major orders for customers in South Korea and Japan, he said.
The product is available in 27 countries, including Australia, the Philippines, South Africa and Canada. What's excited Dahl of late is a deal to get LoopRopes into Belgium, France, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom.
"There are 980 million people in Europe compared to 380 million in the U.S.," he said. "There is some really neat stuff going on in the ski industry and retail."
LoopRopes being used on equipment at Mount Ashland caught the eye of people at Corvatsch ski area in St. Moritz, Switzerland. A marketing rep will attend a winter sports trade show in Austria.
"Consumer use is one thing, but industrial use is starting to take hold," Dahl said.
In five years, he projects revenue of $5 million for LoopRope, along with a marine version called the BuoyRope, and the LoopClip — used to connect individual LoopRopes. He also anticipates making varying widths — thicker for industrial use and smaller for backpackers — in the coming years.
While he started out hoping to employ dozens of people making LoopRopes, he now realizes his company might have a different future — as an attractive buyout target for another company.
"The goal was not to sell this company," Dahl said. "But I imagine someday, someone will come knocking on the door. From an acquisition standpoint, you've got to be in that $5 million to $10 million sales range ... . We'll keep growing it until something bigger happens."
While his chain of oil-change shops has been a family business, he doesn't anticipate handing down LoopRope to the next generation.
"When I ask my kids what they're going to do with their life, they joke and say they're going to make LoopRopes," he said. "I tell them, nooo, they're going to figure out their own thing."