Sunday, July 1, 2012
One small company puts silicone to good use for all
Two years ago, Rick Fredland made a clever connection between form and function, crafting the concept of the Silipint, or pint cups made of silicone. These vessels could bounce off any surface, survive cliff jumps and regain shape after being run over by a bicycle-powered mobile pub. The cup’s adaptable form gives it more lives than a cat.
“Silipint is, by its very nature, functional and appealing,” says Fredland. “Plus, it’s just fun.”
This flexible pint is manufactured from BPA-free, foodgrade silicone that is stamped with FDA approval. The cup is scratch-, fade- and chip-resistant, and can stand up to dishwashers, freezers, ovens and microwaves. The material is odorless and tasteless and has twice the insulation rating of glass. No plastics, petroleum-based products or precious metals are involved in its manufacturing. Silipints are also reusable and recyclable. The company even pays for return shipping for recycling, though not a single pint has been returned yet.
An addicted climber, Fredland, 45, worked for Patagonia, managing the outdoor apparel company’s training program for six years. At heart, though, he’s always been an entrepreneur who loves a challenge.
“I got tired of having ideas and seeing other people market those ideas five years later,” Fredland says. That frustration motivated him to strike out on his own. In 2005, Fredland started Tazlab, a pet product company, whose products include a silicone water bowl. At a trade show three years ago, Fredland made silicone pint glasses in order to promote the bowls—and with this, a new company was born.
Many warned Fredland against it—the business venture was too risky to fund by cashing in his retirement savings. “Many friends were worried that I could lose everything,” Fredland says. “But I am just the kind of guy who is comfortable doing just that.”
Fredland moved forward, securing the molds to make the glasses, setting up a website, conducting market research and filing for a patent. He began selling his first Silipints by the end of 2010.
By early 2011, the company had one employee, ten independent salespeople and two outside rep firms. Because the pints were initially developed for active people who like to drink beer, it was fitting that the company targeted a popular trail running race in brewery-laden Bend for its debut in 2010. Then in February, Lance Armstrong’s Livestrong organization ordered 20,000 Livestrong-branded Silipints to give away to race participants in the Austin, Texas Livestrong marathon.
“The reusable Silipint is one more way we can help runners reduce waste on a daily basis,” says Michelle Sandquist, general manager of the race. “We think people will enjoy its versatility.”
In early 2012, Silipint won the “Best New Product of the Year” at the promotional products’ largest industry tradeshow in Las Vegas. This event coincided with the release of its second product, the Sili-Shot, a silicone shot glass. Business has exponentially grown since.
“In the past few months, we have hit our stride,” says Fredland. “We are absolutely exploding.”
Perhaps the most popular feature of Silipints is that they can be customized with logos and colors. Today, the company has approximately 500 clients including Miller Beer, the Chicago Bears, GE, Red Robin, Keen Footwear, Zion National Park and nearly eighty colleges, including USC and university of Washington.
Further, Silipint has just signed an exclusive deal with Crown Products of Mobile, Alabama to service approximately 20,000 distributors that contribute to the $20 billion promotional products industry. “We are always looking for new, innovative and hot items to add to our line,” says Dorene Lanza, marketing manager for Crown Products, a company that has been a veteran player in the industry since 1995. “Silpint certainly fits all of this criteria.”
Although the privately-held company won’t release details of revenue, Fredland reports that Silipint’s first quarter revenue has surpassed 2011 annual sales. With more products on the horizon such as half pints, travel mugs and children’s cups, the company expects that trend to continue.
The folks at Silipint are pulling out all the stops to make Silipint a household name. Even as growth increases, Silipint and Fredland tend to keep things informal. “Every day in the office we believe that if we take ourselves too seriously, we miss the point,” he says.