“There has to be a better way.” That’s what Jack Licata used to think during his days as a U.S. Air Force missile officer.
On his mandatory monthly day of office duty, the chore he least looked forward to was emptying the trash. “It was both messy and inefficient having to dump the bins and replace liners,” Jack says
Following his discharge in 1988, Jack pursued several successful careers, first in truck sales, then as head of an environmental company that recycled auto oil filters, antifreeze and motor oil. But the idea of handling trash more efficiently stayed in the back of his mind. He frequently watched the problems encountered by fast-food workers when they emptied the large bins found in most restaurants. As the father of two young children, he also understood the hassles and potential messes that came with getting the trash ready for pick-up in the home.
By 2006, Jack was ready to devote more attention to the product, which he called Bag Ups. The biggest challenge—raising awareness of Bag Ups among his target commercial and retail markets—would require a more sophisticated marketing and distribution strategy. That’s when he decided to contact New York City SCORE.
I wasn’t a neophyte when it came to starting a business, but everybody needs to think outside the box. And the only way to do that is to have someone from outside take a look at what you do. That’s what the people at SCORE do best. Even if you’ve done all this before, they’ll give you insights and ideas that you might never have thought of.
One of the first things SCORE Counselor Elliott Merberg encouraged Jack to do was to focus on his business plan for Bag Ups. “It not only crystallized my thinking but made it easier to explain my idea to the outside world,” Jack says. “Over the next several months, I’d refine the plan and share it with Elliott, who would always give me new things to think about.”
Elliott also kept urging Jack to think of ways to get the product to market as quickly as possible. “His mantra was ‘Get it out there,’” Jack says. “I gained so much confidence from that because I know he sees a lot of ideas—some good, others not so good. For him to give that kind of support and say I have a good product was a tremendous boost.”
Jack’s strategy included visiting a Chicago housewares trade show, where he gave a presentation on Bag Ups before a panel of purchasing agents. That led to a spot on the QVC cable shopping network and instant exposure for Bag Ups to complement his Web site.
Jack is working on taking Bag Ups to the next level, including getting the product into a broader range of stores and establishing links with Web sites that promote green products. Elliott is helping Jack craft a proposal for a regional supermarket. SCORE Counselor Howard Geltzer, whose experience includes promoting the Sony Walkman, is advising him on a marketing campaign that may include producing a 60-second TV commercial.
“I wasn’t a neophyte when it came to starting a business, but everybody needs to think outside the box,” Jack says. “And the only way to do that is to have someone from outside take a look at what you do. That’s what the people at SCORE do best. The level and breadth of their expertise is great. Even if you’ve done all this before, they’ll give you insights and ideas that you might never have thought of.”