Monday, June 15, 2020

Dragonfly Tarps: Successful Manufacturing Buisness Incubated in Arco:

Matt and Stephanie Nelson beside the sign on the old
story, which is now the manufacturing facility for
Dragonfly Tarps.


By David Callister, University of Idaho
Extension
Educator in Butte County


Have you ever had an idea for a product and wondered if you could turn it into a business in Arco, Idaho?  High school teachers Matt and Stephanie Nelson did exactly that with hard work, help from the Arco Butte Business Incubation Center, Butte County Economic Development and educational support from University of Idaho Extension and Idaho State University.  The business that started in their basement is now a property tax paying business on West Grand, employing five people besides Matt and Stephanie.

Have you driven down Grand Avenue and seen the “Dragonfly Tarp” sign on the old drug store?  Have you wondered what is Dragonfly Tarp?  I recently talked to the owners Matt and Stephanie Nelson about their company.

Dragonfly tarps manufactures high quality custom tarps for outdoor enthusiasts and others.  When asked how they got started Nelson’s answer, “It all started with a damaged tarp.”

Matt’s family enjoys white water rafting.  When one of his father’s tarps had reached the end of its useful life, he took the well-worn tarp to a canvas shop and had a replacement made.  He was not happy with the results.  After looking it over Matt thought he could do a better job.  At the time, Matt was a student at Idaho State University and was able to use their craft shop.

The family liked the resulting tarp and several family members requested tarps for themselves.  In fact, every time Matt would make a tarp for himself, he would end up selling it to someone else.  By word of mouth Matt was manufacturing five to eight tarps a year.  

He started purchasing equipment to manufacture the tarps in his basement.  As demand for the tarps kept increasing, Matt and Stephanie realized they either needed to quit making tarps or hire some help.

After hiring their first employee they continued manufacturing the tarps in their basement.  It soon became clear that the basement was too small.  After meeting with the Arco / Butte County Business Incubation Center Board of Directors, the business was moved into the Arco Butte Business Incubation Center (BIC).  The BIC was able to accomplish their mission by providing Dragonfly a suitable manufacturing space at a subsidized cost while the business was getting on its feet.  Business continued to grow by word of mouth with twenty-five tarps the first year in the BIC and sixty tarps the next.At this point they were out growing the space in the BIC and looked at renting an additional space in the BIC.  About this time the old, recently upgraded, Lost River Drug building became available.  Last year they manufactured 120 tarps, including international orders, and now employ 5 individuals.



The "dragonfly tarp" that was the companies first product
Nelsons reported that some of the keys to their success included the following: First, having the help of the BIC during the switch from a hobby to a business provided a transitional space where the business could grow.  Second, having a product that meets the needs of a specialized market with strong word of mouth marketing.  Third, having a product that sells beyond the immediate community helps bring outside dollars to Arco and provides a better opportunity for growth.  Another key to Dragonfly’s success is having a high-quality product that sells itself.  Both for bigger customers who want additional tarps and for small customers who want a product as good as their friends.


Dragonfly Tarps has become the tarp of choice of white-water tour operators.  Stephanie reported, “They are bigger, lighter and easier to set up than competitor tarps.”  Matt added “Dragonfly Tarps also do better at withstanding the wind.”  The Nelsons no longer rely only on word of mouth for their tarps to sell.  One of their marketing strategies is to attend trade shows where they demonstrate their products.  They also market their tarps on their website: dragonflytarps.com.  Building a presence on social media is their next step in their marketing plan.

Their product line has grown as well.  They started out making free standing tarps for white-water companies.  Now some of their freestanding tarps are meeting the needs of other groups, such as shelters for track and cross-country teams while not running.  In addition to free standing tarps, they now sell overland rig tarps which fasten to the sides of a campers, trucks, or vans.  Dragonfly also produces custom products to meet the specialized needs of customers.  

Looking toward the future, an opportunity of growth, the Nelsons are considering is the need for tarp repair.  They are frequently asked to repair boat and pickup bed covers.  It is looking like they could keep an additional employee busy just with the repairs that are requested from the community.

When asked “What advice do you have for someone else who thinks they have a product to sell?”  First, do your market research and make sure others will want your product.  Marketing is important, a good salesman can sell junk, but a good product without any marketing will not sell.  Second, high-quality products are important if you want to keep customers.  Third, social media is becoming the new marketplace where you can show off your product in action and testimonials are instantaneous.  Then look; do you have the space to do the manufacturing?  Would the Arco Butte Business Incubation Center help in the transition or startup of your business?

Dragonfly Tarps employees: (left to right) Jennifer Schafer, 
Jarrie Schafer, Sandy Paz and JoAnn Schafer

The Nelsons also commented that as more of the textile industry moves offshore there is a need for skilled technicians to do repair work and build custom products here at home.  Knowing how to build and fix things can provide a career for those willing to do the work.
Dragonfly Tarps manufacturing facility on West Grand Avenue in Arco.

So, the next time you drive down Grand Avenue and you see the sign “Dragonfly Tarps” you will now know what they do.  Hopefully, you have learned it is possible for a company to start and grow in Arco, Idaho.

For help with initiating  a business in Butte County, one can contact the Arco Butte Business Incubation Center at 208-527-3060  (http://arcobuttebusinesscenter.blogspot.com/) and Butte County Economic Development at 208-680-1938,





Tuesday, February 18, 2020

New Business in Butte County: Sleepy Cat Trust LLC




Sleepy Cat Trust is the brain child of Mike and Julie Graham, of Challis, who saw the opportunity to provide a service to local pet owners who wanted to honor their pets when they pasted.  Sleepy Cat serves customers in Butte and Custer counties as well as across the state and from other states offering domestic pet cremation. Their business office is located in the Arco BIC Center, Arco, ID.

Mike and Julie Graham offer the service to provide pet owners a way to respectfully and safely dispose of loved pets that have passed away.  Not only is the process respectful and safe, but also permits the pet owner to memorialize their pet with urns or other containers for their pet's ashes.  Sleepy Cat can also convert the animal’s ashes into a “LifeGem” a real "diamond."

In addition to the primary service of animal cremation, Sleepy Cat can work with hospitals and other health care providers to save them money on disposal of medical wastes.  They can also work with law enforcement to dispose of contraband.  Sleepy Cat will also work with disaster service agencies to respectfully dispose of animal remains following a natural disaster.

For more information, and free pick-up, contact Mike Graham at (208) 228-7005 or info@sleepycatetrustllc.com or see their website at www.sleepycattrustllc.com

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Office, Commercial and Manufacturing Space Available for Lease in Arco

While the primary mission of the Arco Butte Business Incubation Center is to provide coaching and a place for new businesses to get started,  office space may be temporarily available to established businesses that are unable to locate suitable business space in the community.  Commercial office space leases for $0.95 per square foot, plus an energy charge which is currently $0.23 per square foot.  While the energy charge is subject to change, it has remained constant since 2009.  Currently all the space in the building leases for the same rate to established businesses.

The building houses a number of office spaces of various sizes  from 247 to 582  square feet, including one space which has a private office attached.  In addition to the office space, the Center has two light manufacturing bays, as well as a retail space with a display window and separate front door on North Idaho Street.

Leases are typically for one year, but other arrangement may be negotiated.  Beside the exclusive use of the suite, tenants may also use the buildings two conference rooms for business meetings and program after scheduling them with the office.

The Business Center also has a limited supply of office furniture that can be provided to help tenants furnish their office.

There are currently 4 suites and one manufacturing space available.  Follow the links for a look.

Suite 205- Retail Space






(updated 2/13/19)

Friday, February 8, 2019

Are You Aware of a Common Problem That Needs to be Solved?

Entrepreneurs are people who look for problems to solve and turn them into challenges and profitable businesses.  If you know of a problem that other people have, (as well as yourself)...you may be on the way to starting a new business.



  The Arco Butte Business Incubation Center can help!

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Week of January 13, 2019

Sunday, January 13

Arco Orthodox Presbyterian Church
8:00 am - 12:00 pm; Suite 203

Monday, January 14

Beef 4-H; Cindy Wanstrom
4:00 pm - 5:00 pm; Suite 203

Tuesday, January 15

7K Metals
7:00 pm - 9:00 pm; Suite 203

Wednesday, January 16

Thursday, January 17

Mental Wellness
5:00 pm - 7:30 pm; Conference A
FTC Robotics; Jared Hawley
6:00 pm - 9:00 pm; Suite 204

Friday, January 18

Saturday, January 19

Week of January 6, 2019

Sunday, January 6

Arco Orthodox Presbyterian Church
8:00 am - 12:00 pm; Suite 203

Monday, January 7

FLL Robotics; Jared Hawley
6:00 pm - 9:00 pm; Suite 107
Butte County Water Committee
6:00 pm - 8:00 pm; Conference A

Tuesday, January 8

FLL Robotics; Jared Hawley
6:00 pm - 9:00 pm; Suite 107
Butte County 4-H Leaders
6:00 pm - 7:00 pm; Suite 203
Butte County Market Animal Sale Committee
7:00 pm - 8:00 pm; Suite 203
Arco Butte Business Center
7:00 pm - 8:30 pm; Conference A

Wednesday, January 9

FLL Robotics; Jared Hawley
6:00 pm - 9:00 pm; Suite 203

Thursday, January 10

Mental Wellness
5:00 pm - 7:30 pm; Conference A
FTC Robotics; Jared Hawley
6:00 pm - 9:00 pm; Suite 204
Butte County Fair Board
7:30 pm - 9:00 pm; Conference A

Friday, January 11

Sewing 4-H; Lindsee Goffard
1:00 pm - 2:00 pm; Suite 203
FLL Robotics; Jared Hawley
1:00 pm - 4:00 pm; Suite 107

Saturday, January 12

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Week of December 30, 2018

Sunday, December 30

Arco Orthodox Presbyterian Church
8:00 am - 12:00 pm; Suite 203

Monday, December 31

Tuesday, January 1

Happy New Year!!

Wednesday, January 2

FLL Robotics; Jared Hawley
6:00 pm - 9:00 pm; Suite 203

Thursday, January 3

Big Lost River Groundwater District
1:00 pm - 4:00 pm; Conference A
Mental Wellness
5:00 pm - 7:30 pm; Conference A
FTC Robotics; Jared Hawley
6:00 pm - 9:00 pm; Suite 204

Friday, January 4

FLL Robotics; Jared Hawley
1:30 pm - 4:30 pm; Suite 107

Saturday, January 5