When a product doesn’t exist that should, a savvy entrepreneur will inevitably leap into action. Here’s how Dan Abrell turned credit card pain into profit with his invention.
When a product doesn’t exist that should, a savvy entrepreneur will inevitably leap into action. Such is the case for Dan Abrell, a businessman based in Valparaiso, Indiana, who has a strong background in the plastics and metal industry. Abrell is the inventor of Drink Perfector, a device designed to bring a wide variety of beverages to their optimal temperature.
It all began when his wife and daughter, both avid black coffee drinkers, were burning their tongues on their morning brew. He decided to create something that would allow his loved ones to sip comfortably from the get-go, and soon realized that from wine to bourbon, there were many more liquids that needed his wizardry.
Bringing Drink Perfector to fruition was anything but easy. First, Abrell had to invent the device; then, he had to set up the company correctly.
“Our product used to be referred to as the DrinkNow cup,” says Abrell. “We acquired the URL address and in March 2019, we introduced it at the New York Coffee Festival. But then, we were contacted by a company that claimed to have a trademark on the name. Our attorney confirmed it, so we had to pivot. Although it was a bit expensive, it ended up being a blessing. It was so early in our business that we didn’t have much inventory printed with the old name, and we came up with an even better, more encompassing name. We filed for and got approval to do business as Drink Perfection. Fortunately, both the URL and the trademarks were open on these. Not anymore!”
From the start, credit cards have played a crucial role in Abrell’s business model, with a single issuer satisfying his needs in triplicate. An unfortunate brush with a credit card scammer left a bad taste in his mouth, so today, he takes pains to ensure that he makes and accepts only credible transactions.
See related: Small Business Credit Profile: Where are they now?
What was the beginning of your business like?
It started with information gathering – a lot of it. I would speak to fellow passengers on planes instead of sleeping!
Then I had to invent the Drink Perfector, which took time. The concept of our key product started out with an all metal cup. After reviewing the cost and working with 3-D molded prototypes, we decided a tough, food-safe clear plastic would be a more functional, attractive and cost effective primary material.
Three and a half years later, after finally finding a supplier who could properly bend copper in the shape we needed and perfecting the design, we put down the money to purchase the expensive plastic injection molds. Right after ordering, a 25% tariff was put on purchases from China. Fortunately, our dye maker was able to transfer the order to Hong Kong, which helped us avoid paying several extra thousand dollars.
I understand you had a disturbing issue with credit card fraud. Can you describe what happened?
Yes, we had a painful experience getting scammed from a supposed international buyer.After the New York show, I was contacted by a man saying that he had a shop in Nicaragua. He wanted to buy one pallet’s worth of our product and asked if we accepted U.S. credit cards. This man said he would prepay the freight and once we sent the funds to the U.S. freight company, we would be all set. He purchased about $8,000 worth of product and sent $4,000 for freight. Soon, we had $12,000 sitting in our bank account. Then he placed another order to ship to a friend’s store in another country. Now, we had $24,000 sitting in our bank account.
Seems safe, right? Nope. He was using using stolen U.S. credit cards to provide us with the funds. Before we found that out, we sent the $8,000 to the freight company, which turned out to be nothing but a shell company with a bank account that we transferred the money to. Then, we began to get complaints that people were being charged on their credit cards for items they didn’t buy. Of course, we returned all the money with whatever penalties there were to make the transfers. In the end, it was a terrible lesson that cost us about $10,000.
But you’ve been using your own credit cards for the business?
We do. In fact, we have three Chase Ink Business Preferred® Credit Cards specifically for the company, and use them for all of our shipping, website maintenance costs and purchasing of raw materials. Our communications manager uses one of the cards for all of our social media posts and advertising, such as Facebook and Instagram ads.
Before Covid, when trade shows were available to exhibit at, we charged all those expenses. We’ll be exhibiting at wine, bourbon and restaurant shows once things open back up, though, and all those expenses will be added to the cards (which offer up to 3X rewards points on purchases) again.
See related: Best startup business credit cards
What is your credit card management approach?
We use the credit cards for many things, but we also pay them off in full. This way, we remain free of debt.
As a business owner, building and keeping good credit is definitely important. It’s not only a measure of your character that you will always pay back what you borrow in the agreed upon time, but it increases your borrowing power for the future. We hope to get to a point where our growth is so strong that we will need excellent financing options to grow exponentially.
Based on the past, what are the future plans for Drink Perfection?
If I had known all the applications for our product early on, we would have worked on a clear strategy to take it into each market and would have been able to grow at a faster rate.
Today, we are focusing on our wine and bourbon customers – through restaurants, wine and bourbon online sellers and home consumers.
What advice do you have for entrepreneurs about money and credit?
Work within your means. You don’t necessarily have to quit your day job. In fact, I think it’s a mistake to do that. While you’re building your company, you’ll need income coming in. Just make sure you do at least one thing every day to move forward in your new business. Some weeks it will seem like nothing is progressing, but any effort you make to move forward is still movement and will help get you where you want to be.
As far as credit cards, they’re very important. There can be many costs that come up before receivables roll in. You’ll definitely want to have access to instant credit!