ERIK LIPSON, 52, of Washington Square West, is owner and CEO of Fun-Time International in Old City. The family-owned company designs and manufactures novelty drinkware, including Krazy Straws, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary, and Krazy Mason Jars. It wholesales to large and small retailers and to individuals at krazystraws.com.
Q: Tell me about Fun-Time and your role.
A: I started it in 1984 after I graduated from college. I invented Krazy glasses drinking straws, which are like eyeglasses you drink through, and got the founders of the original Krazy Straws in Ohio to manufacture them. I bought out the Krazy Straws owners in 1989 and later moved production to Mexico and built a new factory across the border from Texas. We bring in U.S.-made plastic and some other components, and products are assembled in Mexico. Then they are brought back into the U.S. and shipped all over the world.
Q: Why Mexico?
A: It's a very competitive business and our main competitor is China. There's no room for second place any more.
Q: The biz model?
A: We do all accounting, purchasing, inventory, designing and marketing here. About 90 percent of the business is wholesale. We've sold to most big retailers, but it's always a ground war for shelf space. Dollar Tree, Dollar General and Family Dollar are probably our biggest customers.
Q: What about retail?
A: That's online at krazystraws.com, and people can go there and buy the biggest selection of Krazy Straws in the world.
Q: What are they?
A: They're straws with a loop or bend. We say it's a metaphor for life: Take extra time to go on a winding, country road as opposed to the highway.
Q: Who buys them?
A: Moms with kids. We use U.S. plastic with no BPAs [hormone-disrupting chemicals], do testing and so moms know our brand is safe. Our products are also recyclable and we also recycle in our factory.
Q: You have new products coming out?
A: We're introducing our Frosted Mason Jar this year. They're trendy, so we're doing four-color printing on plastic jars with a Krazy Straw in a lid that has a hole in it. We're also printing polka dots and names up to seven letters on straws.
Q: How big a biz is this?
A: We do about $6.5 million in annual sales.
Q: And employees?
A: Ten here, plus 40 managers and 150 workers in Mexico.
Q: Where do you see the biz headed in the next few years?
A: I'm working on a machine that's going to put an oval bump in the sipping part of the straw that sort of locks it into the mason jar and we can sell them with the straw in and they won't come out.
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