Creedmoor | Bellinda and Jim Higgins | www.stayonline.com
They took a company that was clueless about interacting outside the US and helped pave the way to our comfort zone
ABOUT STAY ONLINE CORP While everyone else is getting out of manufacturing in the United States, Stay Online is digging in deeper with five production lines to meet the power-connectivity needs worldwide. From their environmentally-friendly 150,000 sq. ft. manufacturing and warehouse facility, they make molded power cords, plug adapters, electrical drops, wiring harnesses and PDU Whips, and house the largest inventory of these products worldwide. They do molding and termination assemblies in house and are proud their products are Made in America. Their focus is on high quality and quick turn-around time with no MOQ, which puts them in a different ball game than their competition overseas.
The husband-and-wife team started out in direct sales of tech consumables before opening five retail locations. Since then, they’ve reinvented into a manufacturer with a world class ISO 9001:2008 & 14001 quality management system. They were recently named 2016’s SBA Exporter of the Year for NC and received the Presidential “E” Award for Exports.
HOW ARE YOU MAKING MANUFACTURING WORK IN THE US? We’re trying to crack the nut differently than how all the old manufacturers used to do it. We focus on turning a job quickly. For instance, two weeks ago, a client in Europe needed several hundred unique cords immediately. They called our office in Prague and we got ten samples out to them that same day. Our competition in China has a very different rationale. A lot of them require minimum orders of 5,000 or even 50,000 pieces. We have no minimums. We’ve got the products ready to ship today, and if we don’t then we can likely make them in house.
WHEN DID YOU START EXPORTING? We started exporting in the 90s to Canada, but it wasn’t until the last few years that we’ve pushed into other international markets and seen a lot of growth. We opened a second location in the Czech Republic last year, and it is already doing much better than we projected. There’s rarely a day that we don’t ship to Malaysia, Korea, Europe, Latin America, over 100 countries a year. Probably 20% of our sales are from exporting.
HAS IT BEEN A CHALLENGE FOR YOU IN SOME WAYS? There is a lot to know for exporting. There are a lot of questions, and a lot of discomfort. That’s where organizations like the SBTDC have helped a lot. We’re constantly asking,”What do we do? How do we go about it? What certifications are required by the countries on our products?” Our counselors have the answers. They took a company that was clueless about interacting outside the US and helped pave the way to our comfort zone.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE BEST PART ABOUT EXPORTING? The cultural aspects are so interesting. A meeting in France, a meeting in the UK and a meeting in Germany are all so different. Four years ago we went to our first tradeshow in Germany, as part of a booth with the Department of Commerce. Usually we try to engage customers as they’re walking by, but that first day was a complete failure. We learned the Germans want to initiate the conversation so approaching them was counter productive.
WHAT HAVE YOU DONE WITH THE SBTDC? We’ve taken advantage of several programs including financial analysis and the graduate intern programs with MBA, Law and HR students from local universities. The Management Survey they conducted was particularly eye opening and helpful. Our management team now meets monthly. We also get the entire company together monthly to introduce new people and talk about new projects. It gives our employees some context about what is going on and what’s important to the company right now.
SO, HOW MUCH GROWTH HAVE YOU SEEN LATELY? We’ve tripled our physical space in the last year. Revenue for the last few years has been a little unique as we invest heavily in scaling for growth, but we’re having a record year. We added wiring harnesses two years ago, and it’s already doing seven figures. And, we just spent a quarter-million dollars on three new molding machines. Our staff is growing too. We have over 100 employees.
This story was originally published in the SBTDC 2015-2016 Annual Report. View the entire report here.
More Success Stories
The SBTDC has made us a stronger company by providing better intelligence, counseling, and resources. In a lot ways, it has been like a board of directors or an extension of our organization and team, which is how I’m modeling my own company to be a resource to our own clients.
I was searching online and stumbled upon the SBTDC’s website, and I got really excited reading through the services available. The website is fantastic with resources for finding funding options and starting a business. I was able to download an outline for a business plan, which felt kind of like cheating because I just had to fill in my own information. Then, I met with Pieter Swanepoel and Whitney Hildebran. They sat down and walked me through my financials and marketing strategies to get this going. Since Pieter is a very successful businessman himself, he gives insightful feedback when I need someone to bounce my ideas off of.