TONER ALTERNATIVE !
TONER ALTERNATIVE !
2006-04-06 at 11:28:00 am #14879
Cartridge recycling helps save on printing cost
Rob Wangard moved here from Texas in 1989 to run his brother’s computer company.Little did he know that the move would start him on the path of entrepreneurship himself.
The trigger was a contract the company had with the state of Wisconsin that involved laser printers.
“I saw that (printer) cartridges were very expensive and started reading that they could be recycled,” Wangard recalled in a recent interview. “And the state had a program to build up recycling.”
So he applied for and received a state early planning grant to research the topic and a potential business.
In 1994, he started Cartridge Savers as a part-time business. In 2000, he took it full-time and it became one of the state’s fastest growing small businesses, soaring to more than $3 million in revenues in 2004 and 2005.
Wangard’s success paid off with the recent announcement that he had been named the Small Business Administration’s Minority Business Person of the Year for Wisconsin for 2006.
The category, which had about 10 entries this year, is judged on business growth and staying power, said Mary Trimmier, who is in charge of the awards program for SBA.
“It’s a great honor and we’re real excited about getting it,” said Wangard, whose mother is the second cousin of the president of Nicaragua, Enrique Bolanos.
Past honors include U.S. Department of Agriculture contractor of the year and being ranked by Hispanic Magazine as the 11th fastest growing company in the country for 2000-04 with 1,500 percent growth.
Wangard and his wife, Maureen, own Cartridge Savers, which has 27 employees – five at its Seybold Road office and 22 at its Middleton factory.
The company offers remanufactured and new toner cartridges for Hewlett Packard, Canon, Lexmark, Xerox and other name brand printers and copiers. Also offered are new HP, Brother and Tektronix laser printers as well as pre-owned and refurbished HP laser printers.
Remanufacturing involves tearing apart an empty cartridge, replacing some parts and filling it with ink. Each cartridge is remanufactured just once because more times can result in quality issues.
Wangard said the typical savings on a remanufactured cartridge over a new is about 40 percent, not to mention that recycling is environmentally more friendly.
“Each toner cartridge amounts to (using) seven quarts of oil” for the plastic, Wangard said.
But Wangard said manufacturers work very hard to convince businesses to buy new, including voiding warranties if they can tie any issues to remanufactured cartridges.
“HP has a strong marketing campaign to scare people into thinking they have to put new ones in,” Wangard said. “And they change models very often,” making them harder to disassemble and rebuild and reducing the supply of used cartridges of the latest model.
Cartridge Savers gets its used cartridges through middleman companies.
The cartridges that can’t be recycled are pulverized, with the usable materials sold to be remade into other products.
Wangard estimates that about 30 percent of cartridges are remanufactured – showing the need, he said, for a mandatory recycling law.
Much of Cartridge Savers’ work has been with the state of Wisconsin under a best judgment basis, rather than bidding, with individual state agencies.
That means a company can come in at a higher cost but get the work if, for example, it can deliver the same day as opposed to a cheaper contractor who may take longer, Wangard said.
But the state’s move to straight bids resulted in Cartridge Savers losing the work to a Minnesota company that “underbid us drastically,” said Wangard.
Fortunately for Cartridge Savers, it applied for an SBA 8(a) business development program certification in August 2001 and was certified in January 2002. The company gained the certification with the help of the SBA and the Madison Area Technical College Business Procurement Assistance Center.
The 8(a) program aims to help fledgling minority businesses stabilize themselves, and it has aided Cartridge Savers in gaining multi-year contracts worth millions of dollars with the General Services Agency and USDA. Cartridge Savers currently supplies USDA, the Department of Defense, Department of Justice, and the Department of Homeland Security.
“We have shipped to Germany, England, Japan, Iraq, Afghanistan, and the White House,” Wangard said.
The company also has private clients that include Harley Davidson, Boise Office Solutions and Wisconsin Physicians Service, and it hopes the SBA award will help it gain more private work.
“It gives us more credibility,” he said.
Cartridge Savers is succeeding because it provides good customer service and quality at a fair price, Wangard said.
“Our total defects are less than 2 percent,” he said.