Tips for Starting An Inkjet Cartridge Refill Business
Many people ask us for tips for starting a refill business. We'vedecided to put together this tip sheet to help people start up.
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- Market Evaluation
- Suggested Initial Inventory
When looking over your market, consider the following rules ofthumb:
- About 50 percent of personal computers have attached inkjetprinters.
- About 75 percent of home personal computers have inkjet printers.
- About 10 percent of inkjet printer owners are highly concernedabout inkjet refill costs.
- About 20 percent of inkjet printer owners are likely to buygeneric refills.
- Senior consumers are more concerned about inkjet refill costs-- but are more likely to purchase their own ink in bulk and refilltheir cartridges themselves.
- Certain types of businesses use more inkjet refills than average.Some of these are:
- graphic design firms
- architecture firms
- engineering firms
- advertising firms
- photographic firms
- Other types of businesses are interested in our postal ink:
- catalog mailers
- mailing firms (sometimes known as lettershops)
Some key areas of operations are the following:
Equipment is available at three different levels:
At this level, the required equipment is the following:
- syringe bottles or syringes.
- a hand drill with a #55 or 1/16 inch drill bit (from yourlocal hardware store). A drill press is very helpful and willallow you to do neater work.
- a small, securely mounted vise to hold cartridges with.
- an adjustable wrench (approximately a 12 inch handle).
- a supply of vinyl electrical tape (from your local hardwarestore).
- a supply of 8-32 x 1/4 inch set screws (check your local hardwarestore, Home Depot, or a fasteners supply house). Stainless steelis preferred, but ordinary steel will work in most situations.
- a hot glue gun and glue stick supply (check your local craftsupply or Wal-mart).
- labels (available through most quick printers or Mail-boxesEtc).
- shipping boxes and packing material.
This equipment will allow you to operate a low volume inkjet cartridgerefill business.
Medium Volume Equipment
At this level, you will want to purchase some of the more specializedequipment available, such as:
- air-powered syringes (about $400 to $1500)
- air-powered vises
- drill press
High Volume Equipment
You may eventually wish to look at some of the high volume equipment.Two examples:
- Self-contained refill equipment for HP 51625A -- ranges from$5000 to $20,000
- Custom refill equipment for any specific cartridge, 1 cartridgeper 30 seconds throughput -- $250,000
Initial ink stock depends largely upon your customer base. However,we have found some rules for guidance. The following are the mostpopular inks to refill with.
- * WJ 106 -- Older HP cartridges, and some Lexmark
- * WJ 114 -- Many Apple and Canon cartridges
- * WJ 163 -- Most popular newer HP models (600, 800 series)
- WJ 161 -- Canon BJC 600 series
- * WJ 165 -- Canon BJC 4000 series
- * WJ 190 -- Newer Epson Stylus Color models (400, 500, 600,800 series)
- WJ 171 -- Older Epson Stylus Color II and Stylus Color 200models
- WJ 242, WJ 635, WJ 716 -- Canon BJC 600 series
- * WJ 245, WJ 639, WJ 720 -- Canon BJC 4000 series
- WJ 219, WJ 615, WJ 706 -- Older HP series (400, 500)
- * WJ 243, WJ 637, WJ 717 -- Newer HP series (600, 800)
- * WJ 264, WJ 659, WJ 737 -- Newer Epson Series (Stylus Color400, 600, 800)
- WJ 255, WJ 649, WJ 730 -- Older Epson Stylus Color (200, 500)
The asterisk (*) signifies most people's highest volume products.If startup cash is tight, we suggest that you focus on these inksand cartridges first.
There are many other inks, but these are limited to printers withlow installed base. We suggest that you consider purchasing thoseinks as the refill opportunities come up. In general, you shouldbe able to pay for a pint of ink with the sale of three or fourcartridges.
Do not purchase more than 1 pint (450 ml) of each ink until yourvolume begins to move. After all, on some of the Canon cartridges,you only put 2 ml of ink into a cartridge. Some of the largerHP cartridges will use up to 60 ml of ink. Eventually, you willwant to purchase in larger volumes to reduce your ink cost onyour most common refills.
Black ink is more popular than color ink. However, as a refiller,you can make more profit refilling color cartridges.
This has always been the most difficult part of starting a refillbusiness. You must get cartridges. There are several options:
- Become totally a service business. In this case, you collectcartridges, refill them, and return them to the same customerfrom whom you collected the cartridges in the first place. Youcharge them for the refilling service and the ink.
- Pay a bounty for old cartridges. This works particularly wellas a fund-raising event for a school or church group. In essence,you agree to pay perhaps $1 to the group for every old cartridgewhich they bring to you. Be careful of the price you pay, sinceyou'll likely get older cartridges.
- Create a conversion kit. This is the method used by the highvolume people who have designed an insertable tank. For most smallrefillers, this is not a practical method.
- Purchase a generic cartridge. Generic cartridges are justbecoming available for some of the most popular older models suchas the HP 51625A. However, the printer manufacturers have recentlyserved notice that they consider these generic cartridges to bepatent infringers, which places this strategy in doubt.
With a low volume business, it is essential that good controlof labor costs be accomplished. With training, few cartridgeswill take more than 10 minutes of labor to refill. However, thefirst time someone refills a particular cartridge, it may takeup to 30 minutes.
A well-organized work area which keeps all tools and instructionsreadily available to the refiller is key.
Where possible, refill multiple identical cartridges in batches.This will reduce setup time.
We make the following additional suggestions:
- Utilize family members
- Stick with temporary, part-time workers. Look for thinkingpeople, since the variety of cartridges requires some adaptability.
- Focus workers on a particular type of cartridge. Cartridgesbasically fall into three types:
- Sponge filled
Sales of refill cartridges are best made in several ways:
- You can personally visit companies which would use substantialamounts of cartridges and offer to refill those cartridges forthem. This is excellent business, since this allows your salesmanto develop a weekly route, picking up cartridges and droppingthem off. Unfortunately, many companies prefer to pay on 30 dayterms, so this can be a bit of a problem. (This can often be overcomeby setting up two prices -- one price for cash sales, anotherfor 30 day terms).
- You can develop a fund-raising package where you agree torefill all the cartridges which a group brings to you for a givenprice. They pickup the cartridges from parents, friends, etc.and return the cartridges. You can often get good payment termshere, such as requiring payment up front from the group. Theycollect the money from the cartridge owner and the group keepsa portion of the fee.
- You can link up with local computer retailers. Remember thatthey will want 40 to 60 percent of the retail price. In this case,they act as a collection point, you pick up daily or weekly, andreturn the product to them. They pay you.
- You can explore other types of retailers. Today, office supplyand computer retailers sell 95 percent of all refill cartridges.However, as the personal computer becomes more and more common,we expect that other types of retailers will begin to sell theseproducts and services. As an example to open your mind to thepossibilities, consider video rental stores, quick printers, MailBoxes ETC, corner groceries, drug stores, locally owned hardwarestores, and copier service companies.
You should strongly consider establishing VISA and Mastercardcapability. Check with your bank. Although many banks will notaccept home-based businesses for VISA and Mastercard, they usuallyknow another company which will.
Your customers will evaluate you on the following points:
- Does the cartridge perform as well as a new cartridge?
- Price - but very low prices imply low quality. 25 to 35 percentsavings seems to be about right.
- Speed of service.
- Honesty -- for example, telling a potential customer thathis cartridge is worn out and can't be properly refilled.
Consider these points in what you do.