Growing retail business

Positioning the company to fill that contract has called for an almost $2 million investment and 19 new employees and contractors in recent months.

Knight, 30, founded Cartridge City five years ago with three employees. His goal was to franchise his business model of refilling inkjet and toner cartridges and rebuilding them with new interior parts, including filters, sponges, brushes and drums.It was a good time to take some risks, Knight said at the time, because he was single and didn’t have children. The remanufacturing process creates a better, more durable product than people get if they simply inject a fresh supply of ink into a used cartridge, he said.

Brown got involved in the business in late 2006 at the suggestion of some friends who’d decided to buy shares. When he realized the company hadn’t marketed itself to local businesses that could save money by buying remanufactured toner cartridges for larger printers, Brown saw opportunities to invest and to make some sales calls.Fast forward to today. The Fort Wayne man is married with a child. And Cartridge City employs 25, full and part time, and contracts with 25 more. First-quarter sales were more than triple sales from last year’s first three months.

“I kind of came in and rolled up my sleeves and developed the business-to-business side of Cartridge City,” he said.

After two years, Brown seized another business opportunity and passed the business customers back to Knight, who was ready to handle them along with the growing retail business.

The company is growing, but not from franchises. Knight gave up that business model because he found it challenging to meet franchisees’ business priorities and profit expectations. Instead, the local entrepreneur has built on a contract originally with 18 Scott’s Food & Pharmacy stores to strike a deal to sell his cartridges throughout Kroger Co.’s Central Division, which includes 153 grocery stores. Kroger bought Scott’s from SuperValu in 2007 for an undisclosed price.

To make and deliver the quantity of cartridges needed to supply Kroger, Knight and his partners had to invest about $1.9 million in equipment, supplies and inventory.

Eight silent investors own a minority share in the company. Six others, including Knight, combine for a majority share. They include Curt Brown, former president of Tower Bank, and Pat Michaels, a local attorney with Barrett & McNagny.

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