By Wanda Lenoir
Bryan Nooner, owner of Twist and Seal, has built a stellar reputation for manufacturing award-winning products. He developed the company’s first product to solve a frustrating problem. The holiday lights around his home shorted-out every time it rained or snowed. Bryan knew millions of other people were also being left in the dark and needed an answer. Not surprisingly, the original Twist & Seal was just the beginning of a family of products that are now sold in countries around the world. This conversation with Bryan Nooner continues our series of articles focusing on American made products.
I knew long ago that I was a serial entrepreneur. Early in my childhood, I was organizing events, making and selling stuff, and tearing things apart to see how they worked. I never listened to naysayers or cared about what people thought. I was always doing things well… just a little differently. Being a lifetime learner and experience seeker has served me well. My broad base of education and life experiences helps me identifying and solve problems quickly. These are common traits found in people with an entrepreneurial mindset.
For years my wife and I struggled with figuring out how to keep the outdoor holiday lights on around our home. Every time it rained or snowed, water would seep into the light cord connection and trip the GFI outlet. It shut off the power to the outdoor lights. We tried numerous creative methods to keep the connections dry. We used electrical tape, duct tape, waterproof tape, plastic bags, and plastic bottles. Despite our efforts, water would find its way into the cord connections and “pop” the lights out. Due to our frustration, a solution was born.
I was obsessed in a nutty professor kind of way. During 2011, thousands of hours were spent designing, modeling, and testing various sizes, shapes, and materials. Finally, a clean working prototype of the first Twist and Seal product was complete by the Fall of 2011. By February 2012, we had a production piece in hand, and a patent had been filed. Our new product was sent to major internationally recognized testing labs to ensure the test results that we achieved could be repeated and certified through independent testing facilities. The test results confirmed our internal findings. Twist and Seal passed with flying colors. It exceeded our product claims in performance and consumer safety. Twist and Seal received certification for water-resistant coverings based on the high standards of the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA).
In May of 2012, we introduced our new Twist and Seal product on the International stage at the National Hardware Show in Las Vegas. Much to our surprise, our first Twist and Seal product won the Most Innovative Product of the Year Award. We instantly gained credibility in the marketplace. As a result, we received two large orders–one from Wal-Mart of Canada and another from Home Depot of Mexico. Plus, additional orders from small U.S. retailers. As the year progressed. I met with major retailers and homeowners that used the original Twist and Seal. Based on their comments, I learned the product worked great for large extension cords but was too big for holiday lights. They also wanted a product that could protect multiple cord connections.
In 2013, we expanded the product line and introduced the Cord Dome at the National Hardware Show in Las Vegas. The Cord Dome protects multiple cord connections of any shape and size from rain and melting snow. Remarkably, it won the Most Innovative Product of the year award. Additionally, our family of products was named “Best of Show.” Later, we continued expanding our product line in response to customer feedback. It was clear we needed to develop a smaller cord protector for holiday lights, which led to the development of the Mini.
We brought the Twist and Seal Mini to the National Hardware Show? Once again, our product won a top award. However, this time things were a little different. The Mini received the most prestigious award, the Lawn and Garden Gold Award for the best new product. In addition, the Mini was awarded the North American Hardware Retailers Associations Gold Merchandising and Packaging Award. Surprisingly, the Cord Dome got an Honorable mention. Only three Lawn and Garden Awards were given out, and our products received two of those awards. For three years in a row, our small but growing start-up company became the most awarded company/product in the history of the National Hardware Show with 5 top awards.
It is very important to me that our products are made in the U.S. Creating jobs in our local area helps create better communities. Also, if companies would perform an accurate cost/risk assessment of manufacturing overseas I believe many companies would see the many benefits of keeping their manufacturing operations in the states. Manufacturing in the U.S. ensures a more consistent supply chain and avoids many of the pitfalls associated with operating in foreign countries. For example, many costs or variables are eliminated or greatly reduced when you manufacture in the U.S. such as shipping, tariffs, VAT taxes, currency exchange rates to name a few. Additionally, geopolitical problems, extended cultural holidays, weather such as hurricanes, dock strikes are for the most part eliminated from the risk equation. Companies can also add tighter quality control because supervisors can be on-site more frequently, tighter inventory control due to shorter production runs because the shipping of products becomes a matter of days not months. All of the previously mentioned can be summarized as “controlling the supply chain.” A U.S. manufacturer can eliminate many risk variables when they keep their operations in the U.S.
The internet, social media platforms, online reviews, and various news media outlets allow consumers to immediately access information that is important to them. Today’s consumers are increasingly interested in various aspects of a company’s profile. These consumer “points of Interest” include asking questions about various aspects of a company. They ask, how do they treat their workers? Where is the source of their materials? What are their views on the environment? What is the company’s political view?
All of our products have numerous patents and trademarks that help to fend off the “copycats.” We have successfully used our thirty-plus patents to defend our intellectual property in Federal court. Additionally, our intense patent protections give our retailers a reason to avoid the pitfalls of low-quality short-lived knock-off products. New products are developed every day, but few are successful.
Since starting production in September of 2013, we have sold more than 8 million pieces. Twist and Seal products are sold in more than 20,000 stores and are available in 5 countries. The Twist and Seal story is an American Story. It’s a story anyone can relate to and appreciate. The American Dream inspires you to create something in your mind that is new and innovative. Then you are given the opportunity to design, build, patent and market what you have invented– not knowing if it will fail or succeed. When I see our products on the shelves of some of the top retailers in the world, it is an extraordinary feeling. I am thankful.
How does that make you feel? Twist and Seal is no longer just about a product, it’s about people. It’s about people that have new jobs in design, sales, manufacturing, packaging, and warehousing. Even when the economy was at its worse point since the great depression, it was still about people. It’s the story that we have heard about time and time again. If you work hard and smart in America, the little guy with no experience has an opportunity to compete with big companies. That’s why all of our products start to finish are 100 percent American Made.
Yes. We have four children, two boys, and two girls. All of them have worked in one or more of our businesses at one time or another. One son decided to work full time, others work remotely, as the workloads require. All of our children started worked their way up from the bottom by doing a variety of menial tasks. They grew in responsibility, and pay when they proved they were capable. Our kids previously held, or currently maintain upper-level jobs in project management, sales, social media, photography, and order fulfillment.
Having family work in a small business can certainly have its challenges. However, it has been one of the most fulfilling parts of my career. I believe the best way to navigate the complexities of family working in a “family business” is to be fair and make sure to treat your family like every other employee. Give them the tools they need to succeed such as education and training. Make sure they understand what is expected of them. Give rewards when they exceed expectations, and let them know quickly when they don’t.
The spotlight is always moving. In order to stay relevant, a company must always be looking for ways to improve its current products and add new ones. Many of our innovations come directly from customer input. Our customers are the best innovation resource we have. I personally monitor every single review and customer comment that comes in. I look at patterns and the frequency of those ideas. Once I recognize and clearly define what problem the consumers are asking to be solved, I bring our team together to begin investigating how to best meet the consumers’ needs and solve the problems.
We put a lot of time and effort into creating the best products possible and ensure they solve a real problem. We use high-quality commercial-grade resins and innovative designs that are highly engineered to operate simply and perform as intended. We submit all of our products to be tested by independent nationally recognized laboratories (NRTL). Our products are subjected to intense in-use testing under extreme conditions to make sure there are no failures. Additionally, our products undergo very thorough independent lab consumer product safety tests to ensure they meet or exceed the highest consumer safety standards in the Nation.
We support many local community-based charities and activities. Keeping our efforts local helps better our communities. A few years ago, I founded Support the Blue (www. supporttheblue.com) A non-profit organization formed to offset the many negative comments promoted by the media. Support the Blue intentionally highlights on a local, regional and national level the many benefits our Police officers perform every day 24/7.
We stand behind our products with a 5-year warranty. It’s one of the best programs in the industry. If anyone has a problem with our products, they simply email us an image that shows the problem, along with a brief description. We’ll send out a new product at no cost and pay for shipping.
Three things come to mind. Our products solve a real problem for consumers. They keep water away from electrical cord connections and also keep the cords together. Overall, Twist and Seal produces safety and convenience products that prevent electrical hazards and keep the lights and power on.