Identifying the type of liquid in a personal fuel container can be a crapshoot. “Our construction workers were constantly putting the wrong fuel into the wrong piece of equipment,” explained Billy Sherritt who owns a general contracting firm in Bend. His employees would put the wrong fuel into the various pieces of power equipment primarily due to the fuel containers not being labeled. The results were a blown up motor or, at a minimum, fouled spark plugs causing the equipment to run very poorly or shut down completely creating expensive down time.
“When our generators and lawn mowers were filled with mixed fuels the motors smoked, filled the filters with oil, fouled the spark plugs, and generally forced our crews to shut the machinery down and correct the problem,” said Sherritt. “We tried identifying our fuel-cells with a permanent marker but the petroleum based products wore the ink off within as little as a week. We tried duct tape with permanent marker, but once again, petroleum products and ultra-violet light wore the ink off and disintegrated the duct tape in short order. Finally, we came up with a simple, “Tuff as Nails,” inexpensive identification TAG.”
Sherritt developed the identification TAG in 2002. It is made from a proprietary blend of polyester thermoplastic membrane that is solvent resistant and fits over the threaded opening of all personal fuel cans. On the TAG is printed in bold capital letters the type of liquid fuel contained within each can. “REGULAR, PREMIMUM, DIESEL” for straight petroleum products. “MIXED, CHAINSAW, WEEDEATER, LEAF BLOWER” for gasoline/oil mixtures.
The trial and error period of finding just the right blend of fabric, polyester weft and solvent resistant ink took about a year of testing. In 2003-2004 the TAGs were distributed to various retail hardware and lawn and garden stores in the Willamette Valley so that they could establish the durability of the TAGs while they were being used in day-to-day activities by the public. That experimental period lasted about two years.
The TAGs were pulled from the market and then began the arduous task of finding an investor who would back the manufacturing of the product. “Such a small item requires a very large run rate and to make a profit. I knew I would need to get them into one of the big box retailers,” Sherritt noted.
As a testimony to the TAGS endurance, Sherritt has one fuel-cell that his construction crew carries with them daily. It is used to hold mixed chain saw fuel on one side of the container and bar oil on the other. That can has had the same TAG, marked MIXED, on it for nine years and is still as pliable as a new TAG. The ink identifying the MIXED lettering shows minimal wear. That can sits at job sites in the weather for months on end. It is thrown into pickup trucks and hauled around with the impartial care and concern only a construction worker can exude.
This January Sherritt presented the TAG idea to two friends, Brad and Wendy Marlin. Brad was raised in Central Oregon and he and Wendy retired here a few years ago at the young age of 37. They had built up one of the largest cell phone franchises in Northern California operating 18 stores at their peak. They then sold the business and opened a car wash in the bay area that grew to four operations. Their Silicon Valley operation boasted the longest conveyor tunnel car wash in the United States handling 200,000 cars per year. At peak operations they had a combined employee count of 400 people.
Sherritt explained that after three years of retirement Wendy decided she was interested in getting back into business.
“ZoomiTags would not be getting off the ground without their energy, financing and expertise,” he said. “We are currently opening a manufacturing facility at the Bend Airport. It is our goal to have our machinery set up and operating by the end of June.”
All of the hard work has paid off as ZoomiTags, the catchy name anointing the tags, recently won a “2010 Best New Product” award at the 2010 National Hardware Show in Las Vegas.
They also have a U.S. Domestic and Canadian specialty line of ZoomiTags that contain the names, PETROL, AVGAS 100LL, RACE FUEL, KEROSENE, WATER and CORROSIVE. As of August 2010, they will also be distributing in Europe and Australia.
ZoomiTags, headquartered in Bend, is now managed by Wendy Marlin, who serves as chief operating officer. The sales and marketing team is spearheaded by Brad Marlin and Billy Sherritt with the manufacturing protocol driven by Scott Moore.
After their success in Las Vegas at the National Hardware Show, the company has been approached by some of the largest retailers in the world and asked to present their vendor application information so that they can become a qualified supplier to their respective stores. “The store buyers all left our booth saying, ‘Why wouldn’t we have your product in all of our stores?’ It’s a natural,” said Sherritt.
The product is manufactured using a “closed loop process” to help eliminate duplication of tasks such as transportation and off-site production. The excess membrane materials produced during the manufacturing process are recycled back into fabric for use in each succeeding batch of TAGs. “Our product is so strong and durable that we provide a 5-year unconditional warranty,” said Sherritt. “We are committed to producing a product that provides solid, long term performance and is ecolog-