Great Ideas for your Small Business:
Have Your Product Mandated for Use by an Official Group
In 1988, miami radio salesman eduardo Barea read about a mandatory uniform policy about to be implemented in local public schools. That day a great idea took hold: He would get into the school uniform business.
This father of four founded Ibiley School Uniforms Inc. and immediately began pitching the benefits of uniforms to parents, kids, and teachers. He truly believes that wearing school uniforms reduces peer pressure and truancy and encourages better behavior.
His fervent pitch to school board members worked: In the first year, he sold uniforms to fourteen schools. Barea, who was named the Small Business Person of the Year from Florida in 1997, has sales of $6 million and 200 employees during the peak summer buying season.
His greatest challenge is still the seasonal nature of the business and being able to keep the cash flowing year-round. He continues to grow his business by attending PTA meetings and lobbying for more schools to adopt the mandatory uniform policy.
Up the coast, a New York firm is also benefiting from government mandates. Maurice King, founder of King Research Inc. in Brooklyn, pioneered a mandated product strategy in the late 1940s. King, who developed Barbicide, the bright-blue disinfectant for haircutters, traveled around the country with his younger brother, James, meeting with state health officials to extol the virtues of his sanitizing product.
“Sure enough, the state officials began to pass rules that there be a disinfectant [in barber shops] and in some cases, they said, ‘Sure, Mr. King, but can you suggest a product?’” recalls Maurice’s son, Ben King. “‘Why, yes!’ my father replied. ‘Barbicide! It’s germicidal and fungicidal’—and Barbicide got written into a number of the rule books being created,” says Ben King, who serves as chief executive officer and president of the small family business.
As more and more states issued regulations requiring barbers to soak their barbering tools, Barbicide sales grew. Although the product is mentioned by name in only two state rule books, it still flourishes.
The company celebrated its fiftieth anniversary with a party at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History and presented the museum with a jar of Barbicide—and a donation. Maurice King, who died of a heart attack in 1988, would have gotten a big kick out of the ceremony, which included, of course, a barbershop quartet.
King’s twenty-five employees make twenty different products, including talcs, hospital disinfectants, and creams. But bright, almost-neon blue Barbicide is still the flagship brand.
“My father’s secret joke was that he had a rash condition on his scalp and whenever barbers pricked him, it hurt like the devil,” says Ben King. “When he developed Barbicide, he decided to name it as such because it translated into ‘kill the barber.’ I don’t think he ever put that into his advertising.”
So think about a way to encourage an official government agency or organization to mandate that people buy your product or service. Then work hard to build your marketing strategy around the requirements.