National Cartridge is a B2B eCommerce store that offers automation office supplies: toner cartridges, office machines, paper handling equipment, ink cartridges, paper products, scanners, and others. The company is on the market since 1993 and since 1996 it’s online. And all this time it’s operated solely by the owner—Ken Brilliant.
13 000active product listings
1993year of establishment
AuthorizedAcroprint Service Center
“I was done with college but didn't have a career lined up, exactly. I worked for a while at one job and then found a "Cartridge Recycling Company" in my town. I began training on one type of toner cartridge but after two weeks I had mastered it and then realized that I could venture out and start my own business. Which I soon did.”
Of course, there were challenges with business development and marketing, and Ken did all by himself to promote the business. He not only called potential customers and emailed suppliers but also went door to door to market the company:
“The start-up cost was really getting "how-to" material in the form of a Kit. That involved tooling, instructions, and wholesale supply references. It was expensive, and I later found it was necessary but over-priced.
The other main aspect was doing marketing. I mean getting on the phone 3 hours a day and calling hundreds of people and then mailing out pricers, follow up calls and following a strict telemarketing plan. On every other day, I simply went out door to door and marketed. I had produced flyers and price lists, and business cards and these were the pieces I left with each business and door I approach. Having a computer system that kept track of prospects, marketing histories, and scheduled followups was another logical system I put in place which proved to be very powerful.”
And finally, establishing business relationships with suppliers which comprised of sourcing parts, bottled toner, and packaging materials that were competitively priced and of good quality, was challenging. In 1993 - 1998, this was a "cottage industry" in its infancy and suppliers were not altogether reliable.
It was a lot of work and dedication to build the business from zero customers to about 120, and that was sufficient to have strong profitability in this young industry back then. But competitors came into the market which posed a challenge for acquiring customers because now, customers were very cut-throat perhaps because many looked upon the business of "cartridge recharging" as simply filling up a cartridge and then selling it for 10x's the profit, which it was. But customers by and large viewed it as a simple and cheap way to make money, whereas my practice required shop skill in disassembly, reassembly, and testing as well as investing in new components to replace the old parts out of each and every cartridge. Not so easy.
Recharging and reselling toner cartridges in 1993 was like the GOLD discovery in the Sierras; not only was this practice looked upon as expedient in quick turnaround of profits, but in the minds of some people, a way to profit off of developed technology in the name of environmental conservation. Some people presumed, however, that cartridge recharging was taking advantage of technology created by the large manufacturers of print cartridges, by making an otherwise spent wasted plastics into a kind of cottage industry in its own right.
“This new small business married to environmentalism really brought about an ideal marketing message to the consumer. But over a short period of time, other rechargers joined the recycling movement and made it all a little tougher for the entrepreneur to make a good living while staying small scale.
The size of remanufacturing outfits was only limited by the sheer volume of empty toner cartridges being collected. And when this industry was handed over to the large factories pumping out 70,000 recharged print cartridges monthly, I began to outsource and stop making them myself.
Today, because the cartridge recycling business is largely powered by print cartridges imported from china, provided for by Chinese Labor, and imported as such as finished boxed cartridges off-loading from large ship containers from Hong Kong, I outsource and no longer recharge my own cartridges. Instead, I continue to sell my licensed "brand" of toner cartridges. While also offering a line of factory new monochrome and color multifunction copiers by Kyocera, Toshiba, Konica Minolta. I also do the repair on machines for my local customers. Also, I advertise a lot of used but refurbished laser printers and MFP's on eBay and Amazon.”
Ken says, that selling online is a part of advertising the business. He also actively sells on eBay with the help of the CS-Cart built-in tool—eBay Synchronization. This feature greatly helps to list and sell products from Ken’s main eCommerce website. “It is the essential link that gives me the power to sell efficiently on Ebay.com.”— Ken says.
Ken found out about CS-Cart from his brother. He tried it and thought that it was pretty easy to set up. After that Ken also tried CS-Cart and saw advantages in terms of how well it was designed to search engines.
“The previous e-commerce package was not tailored for search engines and I never got found. But CS-Cart was designed to allow me to use SEO data fields and content. I also like the active support that stands behind this product, and the fact that it continues to evolve.”