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Jim Karnes, inventor and President of DuraTite Systems, is a perfect example of the perseverance needed by entrepreneurs to succeed.

Karnes came to the Gannon University Small Business Development Center (SBDC) in 2002, when he started a successful insulation business. He began designing and developing polypropylene self-sealing quick connect collars. He continued working with the Gannon University SBDC as he began the process of product commercialization to get DuraTite off the ground. Karnes became a tenant in the Erie Technology Incubator at Gannon University in 2007. The SBDC has provided Karnes with consulting in all aspects of product development, including patenting process, market feasibility, locating investors, business and marketing planning, and financial forecasting.

In 2006, DuraTite introduced a new category (plastic duct fittings) to the heating, ventilation, air-conditioning (HVAC) industry in a strong and growing housing market. The challenges facing a start-upbusiness are numerous, but when one's product is new and competing with a standard that has existed for 40 years, it is even more difficult. The biggest challenge occurred in 2008, when the housing and financial markets experienced a substantial downfall. DuraTite's sales flattened as national and international distributors reduced inventory. With extreme cost cutting measures, DuraTite survived through this period. Over the past five years, DuraTite's products have been enhanced and new products have been developed. The company has a nationwide Rep Network that sells to distributors in the US and abroad.

Most inventors have difficulty finding traditional funding due to the risks of new products, and Karnes was no exception. Each year has been a struggle to generate cash flow to cover expenses. However, Karnes remained determined and sought non-traditional funding sources, as well as new markets to penetrate. The turning point was the addition of Home Depot as a new customer.

In 2011, DuraTite's Quick Connect Collar was added to the Home Depot website and the company is now set to enter the BigBox distribution with a test market in 400 Home Depot stores in March 2013. The Boot and Grille Kit is currently being set up to be added to the Home Depot website.

This relationship with Home Depot has the potential to create millions of dollars in sales over the next few years. Karnes anticipates sales in 2013 to be between $500,000 and $1 million. In 2012, a new investor provided $70,000 for operations and marketing efforts. DuraTite is expanding its product line of Quick Connect fitting for the HVAC market. Karnes will be introducing the new products in Dallas, TX at the AHR (Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration) show, where buyers from over 30 countries will be able to learn about Karnes' products. Karnes expects to create an in-house assembly crew of 2 to 5 employees in the next year to handle new orders.

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