Read on to find out how the company's inventiveness led to a new ink product that's as appealing to the nose as it is to the eyes.
By Lori Leaman
Watson and Hewitt rushed back to JEP, printed several samples of DuraScent ink on T-shirts, and took it to the streets, showing the samples at trade shows, local events, and everywhere else they could go to spread the word. The fun-loving and charismatic pair dressed up like the characters from "Men in Black," sporting black suits over T-shirts that read, "Smell me." Unfortunately, the beginning of their promotional efforts coincided with the Sept. 11, 2001 and the subsequent Anthrax scare, and the people to whom they were showing their product were reluctant to sniff anything, even T-shirts sported by a couple of jovial characters. This initial lack of response was disheartening to Watson and Hewitt, but it didn't stop them from tapping other resources and continuing to show off their product.
Watson and Hewitt finally received a patent for DuraScent and ScreenScenting on Nov. 14, 2003. They then decided to form a new company to market the product and process and license others to use it. The new venture was named the Ekin Group and was formed with a new partner, Everett Wilder, a fellow entrepreneur and a senior art director for The Richards Group.
At the same time, Watson and Hewitt began discussions with representatives from the Wilflex Division of PolyOne Corp. to produce DuraScent inks on a larger scale. After a series of meetings, the Ekin Group and Wilflex/PolyOne reached an agreement under which Wilflex/PolyOne would manufacture DuraScent ink. In June of this year, Wilflex also introduced the Ekin Group to the company that would become the first licensee of DuraScent and the ScreenScenting process--D.Lab, a producer of non-licensed decorated garments for national retail chains.
For more than four years, the folks at JEP worked to promote DuraScent and the ScreenScenting process by visiting trade shows, putting themselves face to face with industry giants, and maintaining positive word-of-mouth advertising. But their persistence paid off by leading to both local and national media attention.
DuraScent made its first public debut on a news station in Dallas, TX. Later it was featured on AM and FM radio stations in Chicago and Atlanta. Ekin Group even delivered DuraScent-printed pajamas to the Regis and Kelly show. The crew at JEP recreated the hosts' favorite scents on a pair of pajamas--peanut-butter and crackers for Regis and chocolate for Kelly.
Ekin Group has already found an impressive list of uses for its DuraScent product and ScreenScenting technology, from apparel to house wares to commercial applications. The company soon plans to offer licenses for DuraScent and ScreenScenting technology to other screen-printing operations that are interested in the product and meet certain production criteria.
The official launch of DuraScent will focus on novelty items, then Ekin hopes to explore opportunities in the fashion and aromatherapy markets. Attendees at the upcoming MAGIC Show, scheduled for Feb. 5, 2005 in Las Vegas, NV, and Image Wear Expo, slated for Feb. 17-19 in Orlando, FL, will get a sneak preview of the product and its capabilities.
A nose for niches
While JEP's founders are busy building awareness about DuraScent, the JEP staff remains busy filling orders, large and small, for other special-effect prints, including suede, glitter, foil, lenticular, high-density, and other attention-grabbing garment graphics (Figure 3). In the past eight months alone, JEP has boasted record sales every month, with an overall sales increase of 23%.
"The key to setting up for success is to build a strong internal foundation with a well-qualified, dedicated staff," Hewitt says. "If it were not for the combined expertise of Robert Rakestraw in print operations, Cory Irwin in second-shift print operations, Chi Meyer in our customer-service department, and Dusty Watson (Patrick's son), we would not have been able to accomplish the task of building two companies from scratch and enjoying the success we've seen so far at JEP Productions, LLC." He also credits partner Ernie Dinsdale for the "trust, financing, and guidance" that helped the shop weather the ups and downs of the past five years and grow into a successful business.
Like many shops in the garment-printing industry, JEP worked hard to find an edge that would help the company thrive in an increasingly competitive industry. Ironically, the decision of its founders to focus on markets that are "beyond the obvious" led to a product that falls right under our noses--permanently scented prints.
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