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Feb 1, 2008
After two years of selling pepper spray, Philippeau decided to venture to China and search for factories to produce products. "I found a factory that was making a personal alarm, and I brought that in as an item. I found a door alarm, and I brought that in. I found several more items and brought them in. And pretty soon, I had a product line," said Philippeau.
Philippeau found himself more and more drawn to the excitement of the products and the inherent challenges found in distribution. He also found himself drawn back to the roots of his hometown of LaSalle, IL, where The Flipo Group was launched in 1994 and is headquartered today.
In the beginning, Philippeau imported and sold products without a marketing strategy. Since then, the entrepreneur's approach has become much more methodical. Philippeau found a factory in Ningbo, China, with which he entered into a joint venture, which resulted in Philippeau owning part of the factory. Flipo designs and manufactures approximately 30 percent of the products sold by the company. Philippeau, personally creates and designs products based on marketplace needs. "If the design of a product becomes too difficult, an engineering team will get involved," said Philippeau. "When it comes to products manufactured and sold by Flipo, my philosophy is simple. I don't sell anything I wouldn't use or put in my home. I have to believe in a product," said Philippeau. He develops and manufactures products targeted at specific industries, such as pet supplies, solar, and lawn & garden.
The remaining 70 percent of products sold by Flipo are sourced in China, and changed in application or function to make it unique to the company. "We also have inventors come to us. We have a fee based service to produce their goods, and sometimes negotiate a deal to market their product if it is a marketable idea or product," said Philippeau.
The company's first huge hit was a belly light, which was launched at a tradeshow in 2001. "I hired a group of belly dancers to perform at my booth, wearing belly lights in their belly buttons. "The product was a hit, and took off. It was a phenomenon. We took 3 million orders in four to five months," said Philippeau. As the products' popularity soared, it attracted a wealth of media attention from such national outlets as Regis & Kelly, David Letterman and Associated Press.
Flipo Group's second big hit was pet blinkers, which is also the company's most successful product. Pet blinkers are an LED light that attaches to a pet's collar. With this accessory, a pet can easily be spotted in the dark. It's bright, durable, lightweight and weather resistant. "Pet blinkers were introduced two years ago, and two million units have been sold. It is not a trendy product and consumers use the pet blinker during every season," said Philippeau.
Currently, the company's top five products are the pet blinker, elevated pet bed, flameless candles, solar tube lighting and the fuse necklace. A huge line that does very well for Flipo is the solar category. "Solar products are a huge trend that will continue to grow. People want to be green to save money and be clean for the environment," said Philippeau.
The company has an inventory of over 100 sku's. Products are sold on QVC and HSN, which are two of Flipo's biggest customers. The company also sells to 10,000 independents and has 200 key accounts. The company has no minimum order requirements. Five percent of the company's business is from customization of products for a specific cause or event.
The Flipo Group and its products receive a wealth of unsolicited media attention and celebrity support. Some of the major media outlets that have covered the company and/or its products are CNN, E! News Live, Access Hollywood, Playboy, USA Today, MTV.com, and Yahoo! Finance. A host of celebrities, including Jennifer Garner, Barbara Walters and the rock group, KISS, have been photographed wearing or using Flipo Group products.
Flipo.com debuted in 2000. The website currently represents just two to three percent of the company's business, and is open to wholesalers and consumers. The website lists suggested retail prices, so buyers can see the value in what they're purchasing. For wholesalers, the website serves as an electronic catalog. New merchandise is added to the site approximately every three months.
The company firmly believes in good customer service and makes a practice of addressing and solving all problems with the first phone call. "At Flipo, the buck is not passed. We nip problems in the bud immediately," said Philippeau.
Philippeau attributes his success to, "Luck, a good staff, and a strong infrastructure." His advice for anyone starting out in this business: "I suggest that someone getting into the business evaluate the market, fully understand it, and look for a solution to a problem," said Philippeau. "One also has to find a manufacturer that can produce items for a reasonable price that can be sold for what the consumer would be willing to pay for it," added Philippeau.
The challenge and ability to solve problems is what Philippeau likes most about his work. "We got an email from a consumer whose dog's life was saved because of a pet blinker. That was extremely rewarding," said Philippeau. The company has made its mark designing and manufacturing truly innovative products that are in high demand worldwide. Flipo Group grossed $5 million in 2007 and expects to sell $8.5 million worth of goods in 2008. The company employs 21 workers and operates out of a 35,000 square foot warehouse in Illinois.
Philippeau's next endeavor, www.FLIPOTV.com, will be launched in April. It will be a live broadcast studio available via the Internet. "It is our new platform to demonstrate our products with a video demo commercial," said Philippeau. "We will accept most businesses and entrepreneurs who want to market their items and present them live on FLIPOTV.com," said Philippeau. "Technology is evolving very rapidly. This type of venue is going to represent the future of shopping," added Philippeau.
Anyone can imitate, a select few are innovative. Flipo Group prides itself on the ability to produce imaginative and inventive goods, first.
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