There are probably a million ways to use duct tape. But for a wallet? It certainly made sense to Garett Stenson. Always one with an eye for creativity and entrepreneurship, Garett began crafting stylized duct tape wallets first as a hobby, then as a way to make some extra money while pursuing other interests.
Hand-crafting 30,000 “Ductbill” wallets helped Garett pay his way through college, and it made him a popular fixture at Portland, Oregon’s Saturday Market and other fairs and craft events throughout the northwest.
In 1998, Garett began thinking about turning his Ductbill designs into a business. But there was a problem: he wasn’t sure which direction to take his “pocket art.” That’s when Garett began working with the small business experts at Portland SCORE.
Now known as db clay, Garett’s business has evolved into a full-scale designer wallet and accessories label distributed in more than 530 stores around the world, including Nordstroms. E-commerce and social networking channels complement the company’s wholesale operations, helping maximize its reach to consumers who can choose from a wide range of eye-catching designs, or make their own using the myDuctbills do-it-yourself kit.
Another goal has been to combine crafts with environmentally sound technology. To commemorate db clay’s 10-year anniversary, for example, Garett and his team introduced the Version 3.1 collection of designer wallets, which use a proprietary printing process to transfer artwork onto a custom eco-friendly textile.
db clay grew by 140 percent in 2007 and expects to double that performance this year. “We’re now working on taking db clay to the next level by attracting new investors, building our image, and exploring international distribution,” Garett says. Although he now relies on a team of advisors to guide his business, Garett is grateful for the start-up phase advice he received from SCORE.
“Our first few sessions focused on the basic start-up issues, sort of the preliminary business plan development stage,” Garett says. “At the same time, they helped me wrap my mind around an idea that showed the most promise.”
SCORE’s expert mentors also taught Garrett the important fundamentals of business plan development, manufacturing, marketing, personnel, and financial management. “Setting up and managing business accounts is a big change from simply taking cash at the market,” Garett says.
Garett also took advantage of the SCORE chapter’s library to research standard agreements, and procedures for incorporating his business and registering brand names. “All of the mentors at SCORE were super cool to work with,” he says. “They were excited about my product and eager to provide advice and things for me to consider.”
“If you’re starting any kind of business, it’s nice to have people help you with the process,” he says. “They may come from different backgrounds, but they all have experienced the same things you will. SCORE helped pull me in the right direction as I was getting started. Now I feel like I understand how a business works.”