Bonnie Swayze keeps her ‘Made in the USA’ rubber-band company growing by finding new uses for rubber bands, reports James R. Hagerty in The Wall Street Journal (6/2/14). Alliance Rubber is a family-owned, 150-employee business, and it gets plenty of competition from manufacturers in Thailand and China. In addition, "some of the biggest traditional uses for the product — such as holding together newspapers and bundles of mail for home delivery — are withering away."
Yet Alliance Rubber enjoys sales topping "$35 million a year — higher than ever and up from $26 million a decade ago — and are growing about 5% annually." However, "the bulk of Alliance’s products are spinoffs from the original rubber-band concept, including bands used for stretching exercises, holding together bunches of produce or flowers, organizing electrical cables or strapping down bundles of almost anything. Alliance’s Slip-On Grips are designed for helping people twist off bottle caps or hold tools more firmly."
Alliance also makes wristbands "infused with fragrances that it says relieve stress," and Eraselets, which are wristbands that double as erasers. The company keeps its new product pipeline pumping by offering $1,000 to employees who come up with marketable ideas. It also supplies bands to Wonder Loom, a maker of "colorful interwoven bracelets." "We’re the Starbucks of the industry," says Bonnie. "You don’t like that color? You don’t like that size? Give us about five minutes and we’ll come up with something that suits your purpose."