Spotting and seizing opportunities requires you to identify and solve problems that customers face.
You must also be able to quickly and accurately assess your ability to serve a market, or to align with a partner that could help you penetrate it efficiently.
Fast growing, Jacksonville-based Shoreline Plastics LLC is picking markets based on their size and the company’s ability to serve them by solving problems. It has started with a market with which it was familiar and has partnered with experts and companies experienced in other markets to seize opportunities beyond its traditional industries.
Managing Member Mark Porter is mulling opportunities for a patent-pending shrinkable product that protects wood and the environment. The company plans to penetrate new markets without significantly altering the product itself.
“We want to grow as big and as fast as we can,” Porter said. “We see a huge potential for both marine pilings and utility poles right off the bat.”
Founded in 2006 and experienced in the PVC pipe, PVC fence and vinyl seawall business, almost three years ago Shoreline Plastics set about solving two problems that the marine industry faced. The company wanted to develop a product that would both prolong the usefulness of marine pilings and meet evolving demand for environmentally friendly pilings.
“There’s hardly anything left of the pilings that have been in the water a while,” Porter said. But marinas and other businesses have limited replacement options due to restrictions on the use of pressure-treated wood in waterways, such as New York and New Jersey’s prohibiting of pilings that don’t protect against contamination.
Shoreline Plastics first tried covering a piling with a tube, but the loose fit proved inadequate for protecting the wood and for preventing contaminants from leaking. So, it developed its patent-pending process for heat shrinking a tube around the piling for a tighter grip.
The resulting Pile Sleeve product prevents wood boring organisms from attacking pilings and keeps chemical contaminants from leaching from pilings into the water.
Within a year of when the company started selling it in December 2014, the Pile Sleeve was protecting more than 2,000 pilings. The company also recently received an order for 670 pilings for a new marina in the Tampa area.
“It started working so well for that application that we started looking at it for other applications,” Porter said. For example, Shoreline Plastics sells its Infinity Post Sleeve for fence posts through select Home Depot stores in Tampa and Orlando, marking the first time it has sold products through a national retailer.
The company also recently partnered with Mooreville, Miss.-based Natural Wood Solutions to develop the DUROSLEEVE™ Wood Protection System for industrial and residential wood applications, including utility poles, utility crossarms, railroad crossties and railroad bridge timbers.
“The synergy between our two companies has been incredible,” Natural Wood Solutions CEO Shane Kitchens said. “The creation of the DUROSLEEVE™ Wood Protection System utilizes the strengths of both companies to launch a new and innovative product into the residential and commercial wood protection markets.”
Porter estimated that 22 million railroad crossties are replaced in the U.S each year and that there are 120 million wooden utility poles though he doesn’t know how many are replaced annually. Even a small percentage of such large markets could be worth tens of millions—if not hundreds of millions—of dollars each year, he said.
“We’re still doing our research on which of these we want to pursue the most and I’m sure other opportunities will present themselves as well,” Porter said. The company identifies possible applications for its product with each industry it researches.
With a 40,000-square-foot production facility that pumps out several million pounds of PVC products annually, Shoreline Plastics is capable of meeting the demands of whichever markets it targets, Porter said. It can also easily apply its patent-pending heat shrinking process to suit the needs of its customers.
“It’s basically the same product. The sleeve will conform to any shape as long as it’s not a concave,” Porter said.
Porter gauges the product’s effectiveness partially on how it has protected lumber in the company’s yard. “It’s like keeping your lumber indoors while it’s outside.
“We put it on some lumber a year ago and look at it periodically. It looks like it did the day we covered it up but the samples next to it are weather beaten. They have turned gray and have started cracking from UV rays.”
The response from prospective customers, including utility pole producers, has also been positive. “We’ve been pleasantly surprised at how everyone’s perceptions have been so far,” Porter said.
Given the product’s broad appeal, Shoreline Plastics intends to assess its potential in future markets—based on its ability to solve their pressing problems and penetrate them efficiently—as it seeks to capitalize on its immediate opportunities. “Right now, we have our hands full with marine pilings and utility poles,” Porter said.