Entrepreneur Spotlight – The Tiger Taco

by Ryan Guina

Entrepreneurs and small business owners are the backbone of our country’s economy. Today I have an interview with entrepreneur and small business owner, Chris Miller, who with his business partner George Pauli, own and operate Tiger Taco.

First of all, What the heck is a Tiger Taco!?!?! Watch this video below, and you will soon find out! But don’t forget to read the rest of this interview and find out how you can win some free Tiger Tacos!

Ahhh. So that’s a Tiger Taco! It looks very useful – especially for someone who works around boxes everyday or is planning on moving soon. In fact, the Tiger Taco is so straightforward, most people who see it probably ask themselves, “Why didn’t I think of that!”

Background for this interview – I met Chris after he left a comment on this blog, and we exchanged a few e-mails. I learned about Tiger Tacos through Chris and thought an interview would tie in perfectly with a book about entrepreneurship that I had recently read. Chris was gracious enough to do an interview which follows below.

QI see you have a business partnership with your friend George Pauli. Do either of you have a title, CEO, President, owner, business partners, etc.? Who does what?

AGeorge Pauli is our “Co-owner, Inventor,” and I’m the “Co-owner, Innovator.” Aside from our artwork and final patent submission, we’ve personally done everything to bring the Tiger Taco to market.

We gave George a 51% majority ownership as it’s his original “eureka” idea and so we’ll never have an impasse on anything significant. We’re polar opposites in every way and it has added tremendous depth to our product and brand; we just grin when someone says, “you should have called it a box taco” because we have argued that same point, from both sides (and a million other details people don’t see). Who owns or does what pales in comparison to the advantage of having a partner in crime who always has your back!

QHow did you come up with the idea for Tiger Tacos?

AGeorge owns an embroidery company and years ago he just folded over some scrap steel to slide over the edge of boxes to keep the flaps down. He didn’t think anything special about it; he was just solving the problem he had with unpacking and packing boxes full of shirts and stuff. A few years later he started calling them “Tiger Tacos” because he was calling everything TIGER as a spoof on “total integration generates extraordinary results.” {editor’s note – I find that hilarious!}

It wasn’t until about a year ago, after we’d been working on several inventions in our spare time, that he asked me to hand him a tiger taco which I didn’t think looked anything like what he wanted. But I saw the Tiger Taco’s usefulness and that conflict got me thinking about why everyone who used a cardboard box didn’t have something like it.

QAfter deciding your product had a potential market, how did you go about devising your business plan, and what was your next step?

AThe business plan was first and that was to have fun doing something to create jobs and coolness for America. We also didn’t want to be about out-marketing the next guy or not being able to do something crazy to make George famous. Plus, as bachelors, we figured we’d meet some cool women if we started a funny company.

We didn’t realize the size of the market until after we started the patent search and saw how there really wasn’t anything for box-flaps hassles; it was scary to think we had a solution to a non-existent problem and so we scrambled to find out where and how the US uses 25 billion boxes a year.

Within weeks we knew our tacos could be valuable in several unique and significant markets where a lot of boxes are used; OSHA had reports on MSDs (Musuloskeletal Disorders) from packaging, we saw people packing boxes with one hand, and moving boxes are tab-locked to make packing easier; it was while building this list I noticed three companies that all started with the letter “U” and each was in a different segment (Unisource is industrial, Uline is small business, and U-Haul is moving).

At that point we decided we’d pick one market to see if we were crazy. We had piles of prototypes from various materials in all kinds of shapes and crazy stuff, and we were still grinding on what to call “it,” but we had enough testing data to file our provisional utility patent and we knew it was going to be “it” or time to get on with the next invention.

So we filed our provisional patent and cold called the VP of Retail at U-Haul International. I told him we had the greatest moving tool since the invention of the cardboard box and asked if he’d give a local inventor five minutes. It took 10, but he was smiling and we were blown away because their boxes don’t even need tacos the first time they’re used; it took months to get going and meanwhile it we were beating down the doors of the other U companies and putting together a real plan.

QWhat was the biggest obstacle you and George had to overcome to bring your idea to the marketplace?

AGeorge would say it’s me pissing people off, but it’s really the challenge that comes with having something so novel that people don’t get how it works or why they’d use it; the upside to that is how when someone does gets it they can’t help but smile and tell someone else about the cool invention they just saw; we’re an ideal case study of The Tipping Point.

At first we thought this would be something which would break down doors at the big retailers who are always talking about giving customers innovative products, but at some places it’s had the opposite effect where the purchasing buyers are rated on product SKU velocity and the risk of new product introduction – especially by easy going taco dudes who didn’t speak their lingo. So what we’ve had to do is run tests markets, seek out the companies who willing to take risks and accept a long new product innovation curve where nothing happens fast.

QHow did you find a company to manufacture your product?

AAll it takes is money! (LOL) While working out our patent details we examined what it would take to make tacos in various quantities from different companies; the steel is real simple, but it took about six months to translate things like weight and surface tension once we knew we had to have a lower cost plastic version. We met a representative from a company in Taiwan at a tradeshow and that’s who used from the start; it’s all about the relationship and doing business with “free countries” in our book, as price isn’t the bottom-line when you have the only tacos available.

QWhat was your biggest mistake and were you able to overcome it?

AWe wanted to create a base of sales and saw “self-storage” as a market outside of the other channels we were growing into; they all have those stacks of boxes out front that say “we sell boxes” and if someone is selling boxes then they should sell tacos. The fact of the matter is these places are the “cavemen” of retail and so everything we put into it was a waste of time and money. It also didn’t help that we went after them with our steel version, figuring a small American owner would have a ingrained desire to support both us and our made in the USA product. The key is to quickly learn to cut your loses and get on with what does work.

QWhat was your biggest success?

AHands down it’s being in business with someone who supports and adds to the process. We take a lot of risks and continually innovate our product regardless of our sales, and that would open a lot of second guessing because sometimes our final decision comes down to one of us saying, “well I’ll go with what you think” and in the real world that could be your a** if it tanks. We both feel it’s only a matter of time before anyone grabbing a box reaches for a Tiger Taco, but in the meantime we just have fun and do what we think is right. As for business success, hands down it’s U-Haul and how they’ve given us a chance in spite of ourselves; it’s amazing how huge they are and yet they gave a small company like us a chance when we’ll never ever be more than a fleck on their profit sheet.

QOn your website, Tiger Taco.com, you mention, “We are trying to figure a way to give Tiger Tacos to all America’s Second Harvest Food Banks.” Is charitable work a big part of your personal or business beliefs?

AThis goes back almost to the beginning when we’d look around to see “who needs tacos” to prove they really worked. I saw a picture in the paper where a local food bank lady was being attacked by box flaps while she put cans into an endless row of boxes. The next day I took all the tacos we had and drove down there to see if they’d help. The Tacos were a success and the people were so thankful that someone made their “job” easier, that I made a special batch for the whole state and brought George with me so he could see what was going on (he grinned like a little girl all the way home and this has been our charity ever since).

We’re trying to figure out a way to set up all the food banks, but right now we’re so slammed it has to wait. It kind of sucks waiting because it’s such a good fit for a great cause. Right now I’m down to emailing people like Ellen DeGeneres, who may be in a position to help bring attention to this great cause and possibly help us find a way to finance this endeavor. We don’t want to be seen as people with ulterior motives, but it’s also great business on our side as it would be a complete market saturation in every major city, and would give us fantastic press.

QHow can people get some Tiger Tacos? Where do you ship? (US, Canada, overseas?)

APeople can buy Tiger Tacos though the Tiger Taco website, or through a vendor such as U-Haul. The US is our bread and butter but we do ship around by special request. Right now there is a boatload of purple Tiger Tacos on the way to the UK; a company asked if they could be “us” over there and we said, “sure have fun” (there’s a little more to it than that, but basically they can do whatever they want as they’re cool and we have our hands full taking care of the US markets).

QIs there any advice you would like to offer to anyone thinking about starting their own company?

AAs Nike said, “Just do it!” I don’t mean just jump up and run into heavy traffic, but we know there is no better feeling than making the decision to lace-up just to see what happens when you do this or that. It’s your life and if you just do one thing then you have to do another and another and before you know it you’re making real decisions about stuff that really can change your life. Don’t expect peace, love and understanding from others, know opinions are dime a dozen, and when it’s go-time, know it’s your call because of all the things you’ve already done. Fight the fear of what-ifs and failure by just starting out to have a little fun and see where it goes; be honest and good to yourself and others, treat your vendors with respect and understanding, and when you think it’s all going to hell, just change your immediate task and do something that gives you a quick bump of confidence; you have to be flexible and allow your plans to change because the market doesn’t care about your plan and if you drag your feet having the best plan then you’ll never get going in the first place. You just have to say, WTF and do it!


Ryan: Chris, thank you for taking the time to share your story on my website. I wish you and George the best in your business and with your goal of getting Tiger Tacos to America’s Second Harvest Food Banks. By the way, I love the video! 😉

Chris: Thanks, Ryan. George and I had a lot of fun putting the video together. We appreciate this opportunity, and we are happy to share our “tail” of adventure and hope it gives someone a shove to take their first step towards whatever makes them happy.

Note: Stay tuned as later this week there will be a notice to how you can win some free Tiger Tacos, or another prize that will be given away here on Cash Money Life.

Published or updated June 15, 2010.
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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 Matsonian

Incredible! What a great story and a great idea! Not to mention a great YouTube piece! Very innovative guys. I hope your readers are inspired by their story!


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