*NEWS*IT EXEC RECHARGES WITH RAPID REFILL
*NEWS*IT EXEC RECHARGES WITH RAPID REFILL
2006-11-20 at 10:36:00 am #16869
Former IT executive recharges career with Rapid Refill
Kiran Gullapelli, opened his first Rapid Refill Ink store in Herndon, Va., in February. The Oregon-based Rapid Refill chain specializes in refilling and retail sales of inkjet and laser toner cartridges for printers, copiers and fax machines.
HERNDON, Va. — Kiran Gullapalli has had his eyes on the printer cartridge refill industry for years. Earlier this year, he finally took the leap, opening up his first Rapid Refill Ink store — and he couldn’t be happier about it.The Springfield, Oregon-based Rapid Refill specializes in remanufacturing/refilling and retail sales of inkjet and laser toner cartridges for printers, copiers, fax machines and all-in-one machines for both consumers and businesses. The chain boasts savings on cartridges that range from 30 percent to 70 percent. Typical stores also carry over 1,000 different inkjet cartridges and 200 models of laser toner cartridges.Rapid Refill opened its first store in November 2002. Franchising began in January 2004. The chain now has over 40 stores in more than a dozen states. It expects to add 150 locations next year and 250 locations in 2008, according to the company. Recently stores have opened in California, Delaware, Florida, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, Tennessee and Washington.Gullapalli opened his first Rapid Refill store in Herndon, Va., in February. He already has plans to open five more.According to him, the process that Rapid Refill uses to refill cartridges is what really has him sold on the concept.He said that it negates the negative conceptions about the industry because it is not a “while-you-wait refill” or some kind of “gimmick.” Customers of Rapid Refill drop off their cartridges and the cartridges are first soaked for eight hours to thoroughly clean them before the refill process, which is done in house. Cartridges are also tested in house before returned to customers.”I really like the process of Rapid Refill,” Gullapalli said. “This is not baking a sandwich — there is a real process involved.”Gullapalli first became interested in the printer cartridge refill industry in 1994 when he read a story about it. An IT executive specializing in business intelligence, Gullapalli came to the United States from Hyderabad, India, in 1991 and worked for a number of companies, including the Environmental Protection Agency and Fannie Mae. He also started his own consulting business. About two years ago, though, he started to consider franchise options and really liked what he saw in the printer cartridge refill industry and in Rapid Refill in particular.”I needed something which offered me growth and at the same time an industry where there is huge potential,” he said.According to industry estimates, by 2005 there were 360 million inkjet printers installed and 308 million remanufactured cartridges are expected to be sold by the end of 2006.Gullapalli had no qualms about leaving the IT industry behind. “It is a different world, but there is so much growth potential,” he added.His Rapid Refill is the first location in Herndon and though he said getting the business off the ground is ongoing process, business is picking up and is going well now.According to him, about 70 percent of the work is with businesses, while walk-in customers make up the rest of his store’s sales. Gullapalli is working hard going out in the local community to connect with potential customers. He also counts on current customers to spread the word and promote Rapid Refill.”People look at it and try it and once they try it they will continue to buy,” he said.He believes that more stores will increase the exposure and reach of Rapid Refill. “We want to reach out to more customers,” he added.Rapid Refill places an emphasis on the environmentally friendly nature of the business. The company emphasizes that its biggest impact is ultimately the millions of inkjet and laser toner cartridges it keeps out of landfills. It points to data that says in the United States nearly eight cartridges are thrown away every second. In addition, plastic toner requires 3.5 quarts of oil to produce and inkjet cartridges use 2.5 ounces of oil.Even the décor of Rapid Refill fits the recycling theme: the carpeting in Rapid Refill stores is 52 percent post-consumer content and made in part from recycled milk containers.The walls are made of 100 percent wheat stock and the countertops from compressed sunflower seeds. The flooring in production areas comes from reclaimed tile and brochures are printed on recycled paper.Rapid Refill also offers a recycling fundraising program for charitable organizations, schools, churches and groups to earn from $1 to $3 for each used cartridge collected. Empties are picked up weekly and checks sent out monthly. Actively participating organizations can earn an average of $100 each month.Gullapalli believes that the emphasis on the recycling and helping the environment creates an atmosphere that lets customers know that Rapid Refill is not just about making a buck on printer cartridges.”They really see that we walk the talk,” he said. “We not only refill, but we also recycle.”Gullapalli said his passion for environmental issues and his interest in running his own business really makes the Rapid Refill concept the perfect choice for him. “This is what I really believe in. I’m really satisfied with what I’m doing and it saves the customers money,” he said.