start-up focus

You're a first-time entrepreneur with a new cardboard gizmo up your sleeve. It's a corrugated container that prevents groceries from spilling all over the backseat of your car. The question is, how do you bring it to market? Cardboard, cars, hmm -- what about that guy who sold all those cardboard windshield shades in the 1980s? Surely, he would have some good suggestions. Through a serendipitous golf game, entrepreneur Steve Adkinson was put in touch with Mr. Auto Shade (whose given name, by the way, is Avi Fattal). "He is a legend in the cardboard industry," notes Adkinson. "If I could have selected a partner from the top 10 candidates from every continent around the world, I would have picked him." Fortunately for Adkinson, Fattal picked him. Twenty months after initially sitting down together, the two introduced Box Boy, "the solution to runaway bags," at a trade show last May. Adkinson freely admits that Fattal called many of the shots: "Box Boy and Auto Shade are so similar that he'd been through it all before." Lessons from hindsight included keeping the product simple (the Box Boy is made from a single piece of cardboard and collapses flat), making it cheap (it retails for less than $3.50), and getting plenty of patent protection. (Fattal was a licensee of the Auto Shade and had to turn over a royalty fee for each unit he sold.) Privately funded Box Boy Ltd., in Los Angeles, has signed up Frito-Lay, Sara Lee, and L'eggs as advertisers, and grocery-store chains as clients. Adkinson projects the company's 1994 revenues will be $2 million. -- Alessandra Bianchi

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