Wooden Mats As A Business.
While remodeling a friend's home office, one-time construction company owner Pierre Klee had to choose flooring that was both attractive and practical.
Klee, 42, found his solution in a wood-finished laminate. After installing the floor, Klee gave his friend and future partner, Jeff Baudin, 42, an extra pack of the material. Baudin took a piece of the laminate to his regular office and slid it under his chair on the commercial-grade carpeting. Instantly, the two knew they had a great idea.
In January 2004, they started developing an alternative to the unattractive plastic chair mats common in offices. More than $150,000 and six prototypes later, they launched SnapMat Inc. in June 2004. The sectional chair mats snap together and create a more polished complement to office furniture.
"We started selling them online, and people just loved them," Klee says. "Besides thinking the mats were attractive, [customers were] just so tired of the plastic ones."
There were still kinks, though. The sectional mats were only recommended for use on commercial-grade carpet, and Klee's customers wanted something for their home offices. After sliding through 2004 with $30,000 in sales, Klee began 2005 by buying out Baudin and creating a one-piece mat better suited for high-pile carpeting.
With both mats available online in a variety of finishes and sizes, including custom orders, at www.snapmat.com, the company increased sales to $125,000 in 2005.
Klee says the mat also has some unconventional uses, including in music studios--the mats make it easier to slide heavy equipment over carpet--and as dance floors. Klee jokes that the company could have a special web-site dedicated solely to tap dancers.
With arrangements finalized with Brookstone.com and deals with other retail outlets underway, Klee expects SnapMat Inc. to garner $500,000 in 2006 sales. He hopes to spur even more growth for the company by automating the production process to increase output from 20 mats to 150 mats per day, which would allow Klee to lower the price.
"I like inventing, so it's been fun for me to figure out all the problems," Klee says. "I've always been a good trouble-shooter."
Feng Shui for Business & Office