In the tank, then on the market - East Valley Tribune: Business

In the tank, then on the market

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Posted: Sunday, December 22, 2013 9:23 am

Growing up in south Chandler, Spencer Quinn looked for a way to differentiate his adolescent money-making methods.

His friends either mowed lawns, babysat or were pet sitters. Quinn, then a student at Basha High School, went door-to-door offering to stain neighbors’ fences.

“My neighbors back in Chandler probably don’t know me as Spencer,” Quinn said. “They probably only know me as the kid who stained their fence every summer.”

Soon, those same neighbors may think of Quinn when they need to fix any number of broken items around the house. But Quinn, now a senior at Brigham Young University, is taking in much more than a staining fee.

Quinn’s entrepreneurial spirit led him to create FiberFix, a simple repair product he says is as easy to use as duct tape and as strong as the strongest epoxy without all the mess.

“It’s duct tape on steroids,” said Quinn, who was working at an athletic tape company when he came up with the idea. “It’s a different kind of tape. People were underwhelmed by duct tape, but we never envisioned going head-to-head with duct tape.”

Quinn got the idea for FiberFix after hearing about a doctor who fixed his ATV with casting tape, usually used to set broken bones. Quinn wanted to create a tape even stronger and waterproof, as well as something that would bond to metals, plastics and even wood.

After creating nearly 50 prototypes with his cousin, Chris, an engineering major at BYU, FiberFix debuted in February at a few hardware stores in Utah. It quickly sold out and was then stocked in 10 True Value stores, which earned FiberFix an invitation to the national hardware convention.

Someone suggested Quinn get involved with the Entrepreneurs’ Organization’s Global Student Entrepreneur Awards. Quinn won the Utah competition, then the Western States competition, and, last month — a year after the first prototype — was named the Global Student Entrepreneur of 2013. FiberFix received $150,000 in cash and business services.

Quinn’s state win earned the attention of a few other entrepreneurs in the Provo, Utah, area. The competition process, which included a second-place finish at Harvard, prepared him for the company’s next big step.

Quinn and business partner, Eric Child, in July appeared on “Shark Tank,” the ABC TV show where business startups compete to strike an investment deal with wealthy venture capitalists. The episode aired in October.

“It was extremely nerve-wracking,” Quinn said. “But all those competitions prepared me to better deliver my business plan and answer any questions about the product.”

Quinn and Child struck a deal with “shark” Lori Greiner, who put up $120,000 in seed money in exchange for a 12-percent stake in the company.

“We were in 3,000 more stores overnight after the episode aired,” Quinn said. “Home Depot offered us a rollout the next day. Now we’re in 6,000 stores nationwide and adding about 100 stores every week. We went on (the home-shopping network) QVC and sold 45,000 units in 10 minutes.

“We didn’t go on ‘Shark Tank’ for the money. We were looking for a strategic partner.”

But the money helped automate FiberFix’s manufacturing to meet the increased demand.

Before the manufacturing streamlined, FiberFix cost $2 per roll to make. The company sells it wholesale for $4 per roll and it retails for $7.99.

FiberFix plans to roll out a similar heat wrap and patch in late January or early February.

Quinn, who credited Basha teachers and advisors Beth Herbert and Gordon Ray for stoking his entrepreneurial fire, expects to graduate from BYU in the spring. The bio-technology major and business-strategy minor never gave serious thought to putting his education on hold when FiberFix, now with 14 employees, took off.

“It’s really busy with school and FiberFix but what I’m learning in my classes I get to go out and apply right away in real-world experiences with FiberFix. That kind of education is invaluable.”

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