(WJET/WFXP/YourErie.com) — A local business soon will be featured on Walmart shelves nationwide.
ReCAP, a product line that specializes in lids to repurpose mason jars, was invented in Erie in 2012 and has been sourcing and building its product in and around Erie ever since. The company intentionally maintains a supply radius of about only 100 miles. ReCAPs range in design from a simple pouring spout to a pump or spray bottle — the caps screw onto any mason jar. Karen Rzepecki is the inventor of reCAP and president of Mason Jar Company.
“A multipurpose cap for a mason jar was something I wanted really badly, but when I searched to find it, I found that it didn’t exist,” Rzepecki said. “At the time, there was a design contest through the Erie Innovation Fund, and I won the design contest, so that really helped a lot to fund the molds and get it launched.”
Rzepecki had been working for GE at the time. She said that through her career at GE she had had a lot of manufacturing experience, and she also had a hand in entrepreneurial roles there. This year marks the 10th anniversary for the company. Rzepecki said that when she first launched the company, she probably hadn’t expected it to end up on the shelves of one of the world’s largest retailers (Walmart).
“I was just hoping to have something I could use myself, and I hoped some other people liked it, too,” Rzepecki said. “To get into Walmart is a big deal. The reach of Walmart is huge… To get the product into the hands of everybody is pretty exciting.”
The reCAP product was picked up by Walmart through its Open Call process. Through Open Call, product developers pitch their ideas to Walmart representatives. This was the third Open Call that reCAP had participated in. Rzepecki said even being selected for Open Call is “a privelege.” In a 2018 story for JET 24, it was noted that reCAP was then one of 500 companies selected to pitch during Open Call out of thousands of applicants.
“The buyers at Walmart are fantastic… They interact in a way that is really positive and informational,” Rzepecki said. “Open Call is the start of a relationship with Walmart. You learn a lot about Walmart’s needs and the customers’ needs, and Walmart learns about the brand.”
This year, Rzepecki said she believes a change in the way Walmart displays its products matched well with reCAP products, enough so that the company opted to sell reCAP. Rzepecki said “that was the key change.”
Mason Jar Company doesn’t have a huge staff — four employees plus Rzepecki make up the total staff. The five local folks handle advertising, branding and design. Manufacturing and packaging is done through regional partners who are either in Erie or within 100 miles of Erie.
“As we grow and volume increases, there is definitely more need through the process — more assemblers, more production, more packaging, more product,” Rzepecki said. Growth could translate into more jobs through the partners that work with reCAP. “Some of our vendors were really instrumental in our success. They’ve been really fantastic to work with. So many regional vendors are supporting us, and we have a really longstanding relationship with them, and that’s not going to change.”
Currently, local companies have been selling reCAP products. In Erie, customers can buy reCAP products at Wegmans, Franco’s downtown, and Traditions Unlimited (on Eighth Street). The products also are available online. Soon, everybody will have access, and Mason Jar Company isn’t the only business excited about the opportunity.
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“We’ve met so many amazing small business owners through Open Call over the years, and this year is no exception,” said Scott Gutche, Walmart’s senior director of U.S. manufacturing. “We’re so excited about reCAP’s new product and that they will be joining the Walmart supplier family.”