By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA
The life of an entrepreneur rarely follows a linear path, something Bryan Crosby, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of FunLPro Technology LLC, has lived recently.
As noted in this late 2015 post on teknovation.biz, the Maryville native founded the company to capitalize on a unique pouring device his father had invented. Today, FunLPro has one issued patent and two others that are pending.
“We are there now,” Crosby says in describing the progress the start-up has made on several fronts. The journey has been challenging, but he sees good things ahead.
It had been more than six months since we received an update on the start-up. Since then, Crosby has graduated from the University of Tennessee (UT) with his MBA and has focused all of his energies on FunLPro.
The effort is paying-off. The company has a 38 mm standard pouring device that attaches to antifreeze and wiper fluid containers. It is available in a two-cap blister pack at convenience centers like Pilot, usually in the same area where bottles of the fluids are sold.
This retail development is important for FunLPro.
“I’m particularly focused on the retail side right now,” Crosby says, explaining that the special caps can drive cash flow while FunLPro pushes the roll out of its proprietary container and private label products.
One of those private labels is Magna 1, marine oil that is now available at eight marinas on Norris Lake. Another – a white label quart of oil for KenJo Markets – should be in those stores as soon as this week.
When we initially interviewed Crosby, he was focused on finding the right company in China to manufacture FunLPro’s novel funnel that is built into containers to allow safe, accurate and easy dispensing of fluids into difficult areas.
The entrepreneur credits two St. Louis companies – C.L. Smith, a packaging supplier, and Hicks Oils, a producer of lubricants, for helping get FunLPro to where the company is today. Both are involved in the rollout of its private label products.
“It took forever – eight months – to get a cap engineer to help us,” Crosby says, noting that C.L. Smith identified the right person. Until that happened, FunLPro spent a good deal of time testing various iterations of the cap.
“Our sourcing agent vetted 58 different suppliers before we found the right one,” Crosby explained. They performed “drop, shake and leak tolerance tests” to assure themselves of the right manufacturer.
The company has leased a 2,600 sq. ft. warehouse in Oak Ridge and added two individuals to the team. One is Dustin Giltname, a fellow UT MBA graduate; the other is Elan Herrera, a UT engineering student working on his dissertation.
So what are Crosby’s priorities now?
“I’m seeking large retail partnerships,” he answers, adding that FunLPro is also seeking capital for inventory and international patents. Thus far, the start-up has been funded through friends and family.
“We want to be a licensor of our integrated caps to bottlers,” Crosby adds.
What lessons would he share with other aspiring entrepreneurs?
“Understand the time disconnect,” Crosby says. “It takes longer than you expect. Be patient.”
In addition, he underscores the importance of finding a native sourcing agent for any start-up exploring manufacturing in a foreign country such as China. “You need someone who speaks the language and understands the culture,” Crosby advises.