Many people start a wholesale business for extra cash, or to try something new. For Jerry Phlippeau, it was a means for survival. "I started Flipo out of my apartment in Los Angeles right after being homeless," he notes. "Out of desperation to eat, I started a business." Flipo's start began with the launch of an item that had yet to have a large commercial appeal. "When I started the company in 1992, the first product I came across was pepper spray," Phlippeau says. "At the time it wasn't being used by civilians, it was only used in the military. I found a manufacturer in Arizona, and we started repackaging and selling it for consumer use. We went through quite a few hoops to make it a legalized product."
Officially in the security product business, Flipo added more self defense products, and built solid relationships with several companies in China. "Eventually, I secured our first large order with JC Penney," at a time when Phlippeau had very little money and therefore had to figure out how to finance his first order. "Financing has now become a part of my life, because the orders keep getting bigger and bigger," he explains. Now the head of a multimillion dollar company, Phlippeau still travels to China frequently, enhancing the level of communication with his suppliers.
Twenty years in, Flipo has an extensive line of merchandise that extends far past its initial self defense focus. The wholesaler is also known for its LED products, selling everything from pet safety lights to flameless home décor candles, an item that sells millions of units each year, mostly through television advertisements. The candles are battery operated high-end home décor pieces that are increasing in popularity. "Regular candles emit carcinogens, and most people don't think about it until they have their house inspected and find the filters are dirty and black, and that same soot in the air is going into their lungs," Phlippeau says. "Also, candle wax melts all over the place, and they are expensive to replace. Our flameless candles are made out of wax and look just like a real candle, but without all the bad things that a candle has. No mess, no soot. They actually are more elegant than a real candle, and if you were to put a real candle on a shelf next to a flameless one, nine times out of ten they will choose our flameless candle because of its soothing random flicker."
Flipo also sells batteries via a relationship with Batteries and Things, which imports and stocks thousands of batteries, from common AA, AAA and 9 Volt, to more uncommon cell phone and custom batteries. Located down the street from Flipo, Batteries and Things is run by Phlippeau's business partner. While separately owned, the two businesses do some marketing together and buy products from each other, with each business selling the other's products on their websites. "The business model is pretty interesting and very rare. There are other companies that do this sort of thing, but I don't think they have the customer service that we have, where somebody can actually call and say they want a specific battery built, and we'll do it, even if it is just one piece," notes Phlippeau. Flipo also supplies large chains with every battery imaginable.
Flipo's website is easy to navigate and well categorized, making it easy for customers to find what they are looking for. With an account and a simple click, customers can add any item to their shopping cart. "On the website we have descriptions and video demonstrations, giving retailers all the tools needed to make a good decision on purchasing a product, 24 hours a day." According to Phlippeau, most customers are able to double their money, even triple, depending on their location. Flipo offers distributor pricing programs to those who are true distributors, reselling to retailers. "At trade shows I tell people that our minimum is usually 99 cents," Phlippeau says. In addition, most in stock orders ship within 48 hours of order receipt and because the wholesaler is located in LaSalle, IL, most shipments in the U.S. are received within four business days.
The company will continue to update its line of merchandise with innovative products. "Our customer service is very good, and we always have new cutting edge products. We've been doing several shows for 20 years, and we always have people coming to our booth to see what is new. With Flipo you can always expect to see something you didn't know existed."
For more information:
Flipo Group, Ltd.
613 1st Street
LaSalle, IL 61301
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