Open that jar!
Two brothers invented a unique gadget for older folks who have trouble with bottles. Here's a look at their business plan.
By Mary Kilcoyne, FSB Magazine

(FORTUNE Small Business) - After two entrepreneurial brothers invented a bottle opener for arthritis sufferers, the big retailers came calling.

Here's a look at their enterprise.

Pet idea: This cat-shaped opener helps the elderly conquer anything from pill and soda bottles to soup cans.
Pet idea: This cat-shaped opener helps the elderly conquer anything from pill and soda bottles to soup cans.
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Are you ready to start your own business? Being your own boss may sound great, but not everyone has what it takes to succeed as an entrepreneur. Do you?

1. If I have to, I'm willing to lower my standard of living for a while - take fewer (or no) vacations and cut back on nonessentials like eating out - while trying to get my business off the ground.

Company: B.A. Maze, Canton, Mich.

Concept: The company designs and sells easy-to-use bottle openers for aging consumers.

Founders: Michael Mazur, 29, Harvard Business School, class of 2006, and Robert Mazur, 35, University of Michigan, Ross School of Business, MBA 2003

Inspiration: After seeing their arthritis-stricken grandmother struggle with medication bottles, the Mazur brothers invented the PurrFect Opener. The cat-shaped gadget makes it easier to open these containers, with features that include a head angled to pry open lids. The device also opens conventional cans and bottles.

Startup capital: The brothers won about $45,000 in three business-plan competitions: the Dare to Dream Grant competition sponsored by the Zell Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies at the University of Michigan; the Great Lakes Entrepreneur's Quest; and Ford Motor's best business plan contest. Each founder contributed $10,000 in savings. In addition, Robert took out an $18,000 line of credit on his house, and the duo's father invested $20,000.

Big mistake: The company planned to call its patented product MOLLI (medicine-opening lid-lifting instrument) until a product specialist they met at the University of Michigan persuaded Robert to change the shape and name of the opener - and base those on a cat, a beloved pet symbolizing independence. "We did a complete overhaul a month before we started manufacturing the PurrFect Opener," says Robert. The company has since introduced the DogGone Opener, a canine version. The product retails for $10.95.

Big break: After three years in business, the company in 2005 received orders from Meijer supercenters in the Midwest and from Walgreens stores in Michigan. Both have since reordered.

Revenue: $750,000 to $1.2 million projected for 2006.

Grade given to this student startup: A for the business idea; C for presentation of the business plan.

"The company has a huge market, addresses a very basic need, and recognizes the necessity of having follow-on products," says Verne Harnish, an FSB contributor and CEO of Gazelles, an executive development firm in Ashburn, Va.

"But the plan is sloppy - lots of typos, written-in corrections, etc. I have to wonder whether the founders possess the discipline and attention to detail required to deal with large retail chains."

The Mazurs plan to polish the business plan in response to Harnish's suggestions. "It is a living document," says Robert.


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