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Inventor review: Kickstarter’s nonstarters

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Last winter, Home Channel News uncovered home-improvement-product success stories of crowd-funding techniques.

Of course, not every idea is a winner. Here are a few examples that, for whatever reason, didn’t reach their goal and failed to collect their funding.

 

E-Vent

Smart home is hot, but not hot enough to make every application take off. The E-Vent would have solved three main pain points that drive up energy bills: the use of one thermostat to cool an entire home, a tendency to heat or cool rooms that are often empty throughout the day, and varied preferences from room to room.

The mobile-controlled E-Vent could have been programmed using an app on a room-by-room basis.

Goal: $58,000

Actual: $23,535

 

UnBolt

Sometimes, it takes one tool to grip them all. Or at least that’s what the idea was behind UnBolt, a universal socket attachment tool that could be adjusted to clamp down on all kinds of nuts and bolts, as well as wing nuts, L-bolts, loop bolts and more. The inventors thought they had a ground-breaking solution to mismatched tools and nuts. Apparently, investors didn’t think so.

Goal: $30,000

Actual: $3,935

 

Flipout Tantrum Screwdriver

Billed as the electric screwdriver of the future, Flipout had lofty aspirations to disrupt the market as we know it. Its gearing design allows it to contort into different shapes — 168 of them — to fit various applications (especially those hard-to-reach spaces). Its inch-wide profile helps it reach screws that are about one-third the size of standard angle drills, according to the maker. When the fundraising clock hit zero, inventors might have been a little bent out of shape.

Goal: $50,000

Actual: $17,662

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How to be an All Star

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Beginning in Alabama and sparkling up the alphabet all the way to Wyoming, the HCN Hardware Store All-Star class of 2014 — “50 stores in 50 states” — are laid out in our special report.

HCN’s All Stars are selected through a combination of factors, including strength and frequency of nominations, evidence of innovation and investment in the future, and conduct becoming of an All Star. In some cases, we know them when we see them.

Consider our cover All Star, BTU Do it Center of Las Vegas, New Mexico.

When two big boxes moved into the community simultaneously, the independent dealer went to work. First, reaching out to customers for feedback. Next, identifying areas that needed improvement. Finally, executing a plan to better serve the community.

“We reached out to the entire community — those who were our customers and those who weren’t,” said Wayne Sonchar, owner of BTU Do it Center. “We found there was a need for us to have a broader focus. We needed to go deeper in electrical. We had a deep base in plumbing, but we had to take it even deeper. And also we needed to appeal more to the DIY customer.”

The new, thriving BTU Do it Center has 8,000 sq. ft. of retail space on a three-acre lot. A store-within-a-store Stihl offering coexists with a new home decor area where kitchens are made to order.

Before the renovation, the customer mix was an estimated 65% pro, 35% DIY. In today’s store, DIY has been elevated to about 45% — right where he wants it.

“We wanted to be able to serve more of the people,” Sonchar said. “We’ve kept our contractor base. And we grew our total business.”

Asked for his thoughts on All-Star performance, Sonchar nailed it: “I think it’s almost like the Golden Rule,” Sonchar said. “Serve others as you would like to be served.”

And on the importance of treating employees well: “As a hardware store owner, you can only do what one person can do,” Sonchar said. “But if you have good people behind you and you treat them well, you bring out their ideas and thoughts on how to improve the business.”

*****

BTU’s story of thriving in the shadow of major competition is just one of hundreds of independent success stories documented by the 4-year-old All-Star program. HCN editors take very seriously the responsibility of assembling each new class. This year we started earlier, solicited harder and worked longer than in year’s past. The results speak for themselves.

Help us kick off our 2015 All-Star search. If you or someone you know exhibits All-Star behavior while owning or operating a hardware store, lumberyard or farm-and-ranch outlet, tell us immediately.

[email protected]

 

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Orscheln builds on farm-and-ranch base

BY HBSDealer Staff

Orscheln Farm and Home, the third largest farm-and-ranch retailer on the HCN Top 300 Scoreboard, is planning a new location in Trumann, Arkansas, according to an article in the Poinsett County Democrat.

Construction will begin in the next few weeks, according to the article. A similar-sized Orscheln Farm and Home is currently under construction in Jonesboro, Arkansas.

Moberly, Missouri-based Orscheln ended last year with 158 units.

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