Jump starters launched by 50-year-old company
Weego is a very new name to the industry. Launched just a year and a half ago, the brand of portable jump starters and battery packs is still establishing itself in the powersports market, making its largest push yet with a booth at October’s AIMExpo, an exhibit at SEMA in November and sponsoring the Service & Operations Track at the Powersports Business Institute @ AIMExpo.
Though Weego is a newbie, it’s parent company Paris Corporation is anything but. Paris was founded in 1964 as a converter, distributor and marketer of paper and office products for consumer and commercial markets.
So how did the company get into the jump starter category? The innovation came as Gerry Toscani, son of Paris founder Dom Toscani, was looking for a way to diversify Paris in a time when individuals and companies are relying on paper less than they have in the past.
Gerry Toscani began working full-time at Paris Corporation in 1982, becoming CEO in 1998 and buying the business from his father in 2001. He soon founded a brand of cable management accessories for mobile devices called Dotz. To further diversify the company, he launched Weego in the summer of 2014.
“Two-some years ago we identified power as an unmet need. Everybody’s always running out of power, and we didn’t think the solutions in the market were serving people well, so we said ‘This is where we’re going to leverage everything we know, everything we do and become experts in the field,’ and that’s how Weego was born,” Toscani told Powersports Business.
Weego developed its initial jump starters and battery packs and launched with grassroots efforts. Weego purchased a 1965 Ford Falcon station wagon, and the Toscani family took to the road with its first shipment of Weego product, selling it door to door.
“We thought, ‘Wow! People are reacting the way we reacted. They love this thing.’ And that really got us excited,” Toscani recalled.
Fast-forward to the present, and Weego has invested in developing its channels, hiring staff and creating new products. And door-to-door selling is no longer the focus. Weego is now looking to get its products in powersports dealerships, among other retail locations.
Powersports dealerships are ideal for Weego sales because Weego’s jump starters are all powerful enough to power up any powersports battery. The Standard JS6 can jump start batteries on gas engines up to 4.6 liters and diesels up to 2.4 liters, and it has an MSRP of $109.99. The Heavy Duty JS12 — Weego’s best-seller — can start gas engines up to 6.4 liters and diesel engines up to 3.2 liters, and it’s available for $149.99. The Professional JS18 works with gas engines up to 9.6 liters and diesels up to 4.8 liters, and it retails for $199.99. Each is a 12-volt lithium-polymer jump starter that offers up to 1,000 charging cycles and is compact enough to fit in the user’s pocket. In addition to jump-starting vehicle batteries, each can also charge any USB-powered device, such as a cell phone, tablet or speakers.
As a powersports enthusiast himself, Toscani believes this product is needed in the powersports industry. “I’ve had motorcycles, ATVs, boats going back 30 years. I’ve got four kids; I’m very active, so I’m the target customer. … I have tractors; I have crazy stuff like that, and I’ve dealt with dead batteries for the last 45 years, so I know specifically who these people are, what the solution is and how valuable it is.”
Toscani said he’s learned from experience that most powersports enthusiasts have at least 10 dead battery stories, so a jump starter that fits in a glove box or under a seat is ideal for this market. And so far Toscani has enjoyed meeting and working with powersports dealers.
“I love dealing with the powersports people because they’re entrepreneurial. I get them; they get me. We’re both service people like that. Their customers are spending money, and they appreciate the value of what a Weego does,” he said.
Though Weego has a number of competitors in the jump starter market, what makes Weego different is its quality, service and support, Toscani said.
“We have engineers on staff. We have independent testing done in independent labs. We have our own internal testing. We have factory process testing. We are just absolute fanatics about high quality, and that’s our position for Weego: We have the highest quality, safest products on the market because we spec the highest quality components, and we test, test, test to make sure that they work.”
Toscani said Weego jump starters aren’t the cheapest on the market, but he stands by the quality and safety of the product. Each Weego jump starter and battery pack has an 18-month warranty, and Weego has seen a warranty return rate of less than half of one percent.
Weego also leans on Paris Corporation’s decades-long experience in the business-to-business market. Paris runs all of Weego’s back office functions, including shipping, customer service and accounting.
“We’re very responsive to dealer needs. The Paris paper business is all dealer oriented, so we have 50 years of making dealers successful in our DNA,” Toscani said. “I also think the training that we offer, field training, merchandising aids, make a difference.”
Weego also has a strong focus on branding, with its red and white logo reflected on its signature red and white Ford Falcon, and family and fun taking front and center in its messaging.
“Weego represents who we are — very high quality, very serious in the service area, but we don’t take ourselves too seriously, and we’re very family oriented. So if you look at our branding, our positing, our marketing, it’s all about fun, family, functional, affordable. … Weego represents who we are, is the best I can say, the best way to describe it,” said Toscani.
Toscani has also put a big emphasis on Weego’s MAP policy, which is followed strictly.
“I can’t tell you how many times at AIMExpo in particular dealers said, ‘My customer comes in, and they’re whipping out their cell phone checking my price on Amazon, and if I’m not near it or at it, they walk.’ And that’s a huge business issue in this channel. So the fact that we have a MAP policy with integrity, I think means a lot,” he said.
2015 was big year for Weego, as it was the first full year for the brand, and Weego exceeded its goals for the year and in Q4. Toscani says 2016 will bring more outreach, promotions and product.