It’s a bruising business. But somebody’s gotta do it. Paul Stremple is glad it’s him.
His company, Cultured Containers, has sold over 75,000 units of its BananaBunker plastic banana protectors at $5 each (that’s $375,000 in revenue). The product fits snugly around your banana to guard it from bruising when carried in your pocket, pack, or purse.
Stremple stumbled on the idea in 2000 when his sister complained that her lunchtime banana kept getting dented in her briefcase. So he went to work on a prototype.
“I told her there must be a container to protect fruit, although I didn’t know of any that would fit a banana,” he says. “So I came up with one.”
Design in hand, he went to the library and consulted the Thomas Directory in search of a manufacturer. He went through five before he found a maker who got it just, um, ripe.
At first the product attracted little attention. Then he got his big break.
The BananaBunker was selected by the Museum of Modern Art in New York City for their design exhibition called SAFE: Design Takes on Risk.
Museum visitors were struck by the BananaBunker’s utility. Also appealing: its undeniably suggestive shape. Sales jumped and the BananaBunker is still the museum gift shop’s bestselling product.
“I’m also selling to about 12 other specialty shops in the U.S. and to two international distributors in Japan and Europe,” Stremple says. You can find his product online, at BananaBunker.com.
Stremple spent $40,000 to get patents but other companies are now marketing imitations. “My competitors are the Banana Guard in Vancouver and the Banana Saver in Ohio.”
To stay a step ahead, he’s now developing more products, including the Peach Purse, Pear Pouch, Apple Attache, and Grape Shape.
His advice for others with unusual ideas is simple. Keep at it and your dreams will bear fruit. “I didn’t have any money to start the business and I couldn’t get a loan because of my unique and new product. It may have been a different story if I was trying to open a flower shop.”
Stremple has received inquiries from investors but he has no plans to take funding. “I could get some angels to invest but now I don’t need them.”