A local marketing professional has created a business around using straps to promote businesses and sports teams.
Take a look at the straps of a backpack, a laptop case or a piece of luggage. They are everywhere, helping serve the necessary albeit uncreative purpose of transporting books, laptops and clothes from one location to another.
Where one might see a bland stretch of fabric, Stwrap founder and CEO Tom Augustine saw a blank canvas, ripe for a marketing opportunity.
"I was dropping my kids off at school and saw all these black straps on backpacks," he says. "They are dull and I thought there had to be a way to bring them to life."
He says he made the same observation at trade shows and while traveling. After mulling the idea over for about 10 years, he says, the Stwrap was born.
A Stwrap-the "w" is silent-is a simple one- to one-and-a-half inch band made of rubber that fits snuggly around a strap. The focal point of the accessory is a plastic dome emblazoned with the image of a favorite sports team or a corporate logo.
It faces forward on the strap of any bag, putting "branding front and center." Augustine used his 20-plus years in marketing and branding to help develop the product.
His day job is serving as president and co-founder of Minds On, a business-to-business digital marketing agency based in Lewis Center, and he is always working on new ideas, he says.
When he turned 40 he had an epiphany. He told himself there would be no more "what-ifs," and decided it was time to somehow bring the Stwrap to market.
"I like to create ideas and make them happen," he says, "not put them on a shelf."This is not the first unique marketing idea Augustine has brought to fruition. About 10 years ago he created the Lacelet-a decoration for shoelaces that sold for a dollar apiece to raise funds and awareness for juvenile diabetes research.
But creating, manufacturing, marketing and selling the Lacelet was "overwhelming."
"It became a full-time job," he says. "Creating the molds, storing the inventory, you don't think about that stuff."
This time he says he looked for a way to outsource everything but the creative component.
Thanks to contacts he had via LinkedIn.com, he was able to form a partnership with WinCraft, an international sports licensing giant based in Winona, Minn.
After one PowerPoint presentation, WinCraft was sold on the idea of the Stwrap.
"We believe Stwrap has the potential to be a solid part of many of our merchandise programs over the next two to three years," says John Killen, president and CEO of WinCraft. "It has a great profile-collectible, affordable, fun and unique, a perfect recipe for success in the sports novelty business."
WinCraft creates, markets and sells the Stwrap. Thanks to this partnership, Augustine's product can sport the logos of all major professional sports in America, as well as those sporting events such as the Super Bowl, and dozens of colleges.
The plan is to also branch out into corporate logos, and there is a market for custom orders as well.
But Stwrap, which sells for $4.99, goes beyond logos. The company recently launched a line of Stwraps with NFL quarterbacks on them.
"Stwrap is a unique product positioned at an attractive price point making it affordable and collectible for a broad fan base," Killen says.
The product's retail launch took place in September, and Augustine expects the Stwrap to be in more retailers by the end of the year. It's making its way to bookstores at college campuses across the nation, as well as pro shops at stadiums throughout the country.
The possibilities for Stwrap, Augustine says, are truly endless.
"It's about promoting your brand in a very unique way," he says. "It will be the next big collectable item people can get their hands on. It's hard to find a licensed product that is so affordable."
Kelli Milligan Stammen is a freelance writer.