Creator of kitchen tool hopes to bring manufacturing home

Ed Ferencik spends long hours at work these days, coordinating a team that stretches from a design group in Chicago to a manufacturer in China.

The Butcher's Kitchen, the Reno-based company founded by Ferencik, is looking to reduce its time-zone footprint by bringing its manufacturing back to the United States.

Ferencik, who spent much of his working life in the meat business, launched his first product, "The Impressor," about 18 months ago.

The kitchen tool, modeled after industrial models Ferencik first saw long ago, includes 60 piercing blades that tenderize meat and allow it to be marinated quickly. Inter-changeable heads allow the tool to be used as a pounder.

It was a hit from the start.

Ferencik showed the product to 60,000 attendees at the International Home + Housewares Show in March 2009, winning honors for the best housewares invention.

Among the prizes: Three months of free advertising in Sky Mall magazine, ads that generated some quick orders from airline passengers.

At the same time, Ferencik who pre-viously worked eight years selling office equipment worked the phones to place The Impressor in big retailers such as Cabela's and Sur La Table, along with independent kitchen retailers across the country. He also sells the product through his Web site,

Now Ferencik thinks it might be time to bring manufacturing back to the United States.

The time difference between Reno and his Chinese supplier is a headache. So is the language barrier. So are shipping headaches.

And a bit of patriotism is at work, too.

"I would love to be part of the solution," says Ferencik, who adds that the cost difference between offshore and domestic manufacturing has narrowed.

That wasn't the case when Ferencik was developing the product. Then, the costs of prototyping and tooling were dramatically higher in the United States an extra expense that likely would have been a killer for the company.

"You've got to have a lot of moxie," he says. "You've got to negotiate everything."

Ferencik financed The Butcher's Kitchen largely from his own resources, although a Small Business Administration loan through California's Borrego Springs Bank gave the company a leg up.

"It's been an incredible learning experience," he says. "Taking an idea to market is a lot of work."

Now, as Ferencik looks to develop further products, capital once again becomes the critical issue. Bank lending remains tight, and Ferencik wants to take on investors only if they bring business acumen as well as cash to the company.

The marketing effort, meanwhile, increasingly will be driven by the company's Web site. Ferencik wants to use the site as a library of videos that show consumers how to buy and prepare meat sort of a modern-day successor to the corner butcher.

"It's going to be the WebMD of meat," Ferencik says.


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