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The Owner’s Dilemma

January 7, 2019

Duane Siebert.

After thirty-one years of running their business Duane and Annette Siebert face every owner’s dilemma: Continue growing their ‘baby’ or finally retire…  Their choice?  Retire.

Florida-based TonerRefillKits.com is their ‘baby’, ‘conceived’ over thirty-one years ago (started as The Laser Group, then going online as TonerRefillKits.com in 1999).  Since going online, its primary focus has been what the name conveys – supplying their ReChargX-brand toner refill kits (and compatible cartridges for non-“DIYers”) to customers ranging from individuals, to government agencies, to schools, to Fortune 100 companies and everything in-between in 157 countries around the world.

Many know basic refilling is the way our industry started, but few appreciate that refilling the original cartridge with a toner refill kit has the greatest positive environmental impact in the “reduce, reuse, recycle” equation we all support.  Duane and Annette have been advocating the ‘reuse’ aspect, “forever”, as their ReChargX toner refill kit products have been designed entirely around the concept of reuse.

Their commitment to reuse spawned a massive “family” of more than 45,000 customers (on their current customer/email list and almost the same number of earlier customers, as well, in their data “vault”).

At today’s prevailing pay-per-click rates, you’ll pay $2 (€1.76) – $10 (€8.80) just to get a visit to your website.  That means at a 5 percent conversion rate, it costs 20 times that to land a paying customer.  Even at a super-low $25 (€22) cost per customer you’d spend well over $1 million (€880,550) to add 45,000+ customers to your business (they spent an average of $65 (€57)/customer to build their family).

Beyond a customer family the size of a major city, what’s the jewel in their crown they’re most proud of?  They have customer satisfaction scores you would kill for.  While many people in our industry scoff and look down their noses at the thought of merely refilling cartridges with a DIY toner refill kit, their customers rate their toner refill kits are the best in the world and have given them more than 5,400 nearly perfect 5/5 and 10/10-star reviews doing exactly that, refilling OEM toner cartridges (Duane points out that “even the OEMs whose cartridges are being refilled don’t get those sorts of stellar reviews on their brand new cartridges!”)

Though they never imagined the Supreme Court would “bless” their business, last year’s Supreme Court’s “en banc” decision on a user’s right to do whatever they please with a cartridge after buying it and using it until empty, did exactly that – gave their products the ultimate seal of approval for people who want to refill their own toner cartridges (which Duane frequently refers to as “performing your own oil change”) –  “You bought it, you own it, you can refill it!”

When asked what accounts for their 31+ years of success, Duane said, “It’s really simple:  We love what we do, we love working hard, we love our customer family and make business decisions looking through their eyes, so we answer our phones live, offer live chat and give our customers what no other company in our industry offers, our amazing six word “No Time Limit – No ‘Fine Print’ Guarantee” and it means exactly what it says!”

But, every owner comes to a point where they want to exit the business and enjoy the fruits of their labours and that is exactly where Duane and Annette are.  “We’d love for someone to take over what we created and keep it going for another 31 years.”  Annette adds, “…’cause “mom” and “dad” want to retire and it’s time for “baby” to move out!”

If you are interested in “adopting” their family of 45,000+ happy customers, contact Duane and Annette’s agent, Frank Frisaura at: +1 321 276 2727, or email: ffrisaura@gmail.com for the business prospectus.

Duane Siebert tells The Recycler about his company’s beginnings, progression, and three decades of forward-thinking innovation…

A business of 30+ years, the Number 1 toner refill kit brand, 100,000+ customers in 157 countries around the world… All started, how?

I loved the thought of helping people be “green” and making some “green” in return. One day my boss walked over and said, “You need to replace the toner cartridge in the printer.” I couldn’t believe the only option was dumping 4 pounds of plastic and metal into the garbage (costing $3,000 annually to create that 100+ pounds of “garbage”). There had to be another option. Maybe refilling it?

Duane and Annette Siebert.

Always having a love for taking stuff apart and putting it back together, I knew with 100 percent certainty that giant plastic toner cartridge wasn’t “garbage”.

When I heard the cost of a bottle of toner was $30 (€26.40) and knowing the HP Series II cartridge sold for $125 (€110), I was thrilled. I figured if I could refill that cartridge for $30 (€26.40) and resell it at a huge 50 percent discount, I would make $30+ every time I did that.

From the very start I knew that if/when my remanufactured toner cartridges and those of my competitors worked as well as the name-brand OEM originals, the only differentiation I would have between our company and the other guys was our price.

By solely cold-calling local businesses in our Chicagoland area I was able to quit my job. I realized if I could ship a cartridge across northern Illinois and the Chicagoland area (where we started our business) the entire United States was now my oyster! That thought lead to the massive increases in our business when I convinced my wife (who was still working in the brokerage industry) we needed to run an ad in a national magazine.

From that really cheesy looking ad, the first phone call we received was from a guy in Deer Island, Maine. He was our very first mail-order customer! In the blink of an eye, we just went nationwide.

The minute we started advertising in PC Magazine ads we started receiving inquiries from people who wanted to start their own toner cartridge remanufacturing business.

The thought of creating a series of training videotapes, manuals and a starter “Business In A Box” with supplies was quite appealing. Ultimately we trained over 3,500 people around the world how to participate in the booming toner cartridge remanufacturing industry.

In late 1998, I happened to be looking through a “Tiger Direct” “magalog” (combination magazine/catalogue) and saw a “story” (ad) about a “toner refill kit” from some small company I had never heard of. Once again I set out on a mission to create the best toner refill kit in the world.

I realised that with all of our photography and video equipment that we used to create our toner cartridge remanufacturing training, along with the tools we used to create our instructions and intimate knowledge of the best suppliers, we could create the best toner refill kits on the market, in the same way we had done with our remanufactured toner cartridges and our toner cartridge remanufacturing training.

Since e-commerce on the internet was just getting started, it came to me and TonerRefillKits.com was born. Since we already had pictures and instructions for dozens of toner cartridge types already in house for our training products, we were able to add 100 varieties of ReChargX-brand (our brand name) toner refill kits in a matter of months.

Basically from day one, my thinking about our company’s environmental impact was “reducing” is good, “recycling” is good, but, “reusing” is KING! Unlike recycling (where the cartridge and the box have to be shipped somewhere for processing and the shipping requires an energy expenditure) the cartridge stays in place and a tiny fraction of the original natural resources used to create a complete

cartridge are used to refill the cartridge with toner.

Little did we know on that fateful day in 1987 that changing my first toner cartridge in an HP Laserjet Series II would take us all the way to our retirement years. It has been one heckuva journey and we would gladly do it all over again (assuming we were in our early 30s all over again!)

As Annette and I have said in just about every single communication we have ever sent out to our customers, “Without all of you, there wouldn’t be a TonerRefillKits.com.”

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