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Introducing SNAP CAPPS

Carl Stufflet might argue that untimely beer spills rank right up there with necessity as the mother of invention.

In the hours after he twice spilled beer down his leg during a disc golf competition, Stufflet pondered ways to keep beverages in open cans until he was ready to swallow the contents.

"I was sitting around the campfire at Whistlers Bend Park (on the North Umpqua)," Stufflet recalls. "I had a 20-ounce Pepsi plastic bottle in my cup holder and I thought, 'I bet this will fit on top of my can if I heat it up.'"

So he grabbed his utility knife, sliced the top of the bottle off and then used a lighter to heat the edges so that it conformed to the can.

"It actually worked pretty well," he says. "It dripped a little bit, but it was a lot better than spilling beer all over the place. It kept the bees and flies out, too."

The erstwhile heating and air conditioning service manager knew he was on to something from the beginning. When fellow golfers began admiring his prototype, he realized there were real possibilities.

Last July, Stufflet and Dave Gran, a machine operator at Kodak in White City, began mulling commercial versions of the product.

"In my mind's idea I look to see if it would appeal to a mass market, what the manufacturing costs were and would the profit be there," Gran says. "I looked at it and thought this is cool. I crunched it over and thought it was something that would work."

In September, they formed Snap Capp LLC of Central Point with Gran as president and Stufflet as vice president. They hoped to originally market the product in time for last month's Super Bowl, but are now looking for an early April launch.

Gran sat down with a computer-assisted drawing program to come up with designs.

Gran and Stufflet brought their idea to Eric Foy and Perideo, a Central Point plastics manufacturer, who crafted the product design and mold.

"It's that kind of deal where you go, 'Gee why didn't I think of that,' " says Foy, who specializes in plastic injection molding. "Every now and then you run into something so obvious and catching. I was gung-ho from the beginning."

He says his end of the project took about 30 hours during a six-week period in October and November.

Stufflet and Gran surfed the Internet for a company to produce Snap Capp and unearthed Ramko Manufacturing in Hemet, Calif., which bills itself as the largest plastic mold manufacturer in the West and numbers Toro and Rainbird among its customers.

Within an hour after they left a message at the company, Stufflet says, Ramko vice president John Rathbone was on the phone and by early February the company was working on a mold.

Gran plans to fly to Southern California today to check out the mold, do a snap-fit test and sample colors. Production is scheduled next week for the first run of 10,000 Snap Capps. Early distribution will be primarily in the Rogue Valley, California's Monterey Bay and Denver.

Start-up costs totaled about $60,000, Stufflet says. The company is seeking distributorships, at $5,000, and investors for expansion, at $10,000.

"Our goal is to add one distributor a month and to expand by 10 stores per month," says Stufflet, adding the next phase of lids will cover 24-ounce cans.

The company plans to sell its product at the Pear Blossom Festival April 14 in Medford.

Unlike the first whimsical effort produced around a campfire, the mass-produced product won't leak.

"I used the one I made at the camp for almost a year and people started to comment on what a great idea it was," recalls Stufflet, who plays golf of the regular variety as well. "One guy offered me $5 for the little Pepsi one I made."

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 776-4463 or e-mail business@mailtribune.com.

Carl Stufflet invented Snap Capps, a plastic bottle top that fits on a can.