A New World of Profits

Small Business Development Center hosted by Long Beach City College
GTD Shipping and Distribution

Before:
Growing up involved in family businesses near Disneyland, Dara Maleki met many visitors from overseas. So when he started his own business in 2005, brokering and distributing products to international markets was a natural fit. GTD Shipping and Distribution focused on Australia, supplying clients with products ranging from classic cars to printing presses. But by 2010, the global financial crisis was hurting business—until an opportunity arose to sell Alka Power, a natural alkaline bottled water with many health benefits. Seeking legal advice on the product’s potential, in November 2010 Maleki visited the Small Business Development Center at Long Beach City College.

Best Advice:
Business Advisors Lynn Stewart and Michael Baker helped Maleki evaluate Alka Power’s market potential, negotiate contracts and develop creative ways to finance the project. He also took classes in export and import regulations.

Lessons Learned:

  • Do market research. Maleki needed to know how labeling requirements and other restrictions might affect Alka Power’s export potential. “Lynn did a lot of research on labeling requirements and how much bottled water is sold in Australia,” he says. “She was quite thorough in the information she delivered. It really set me at ease [as to] how I could take on that market.”
  • Investigate your options. Stewart and Baker showed Maleki that there was more than just a product at stake. Instead of just licensing the product as originally planned,Maleki licensed the technology for producing the water, better protecting against competitors. “Lynn and Michael really told me where I needed to cover myself.”
  • Get creative. “It’s very difficult to get financing,” Maleki says. “[The SBDC] helped me devise a creative way to bootstrap.” Maleki sold an Australian company the exclusive rights to represent a water filtration system, then used the proceeds to finance the Alka Power project.

After:

GTD has finalized contracts with a distributor in Australia and one of the nation’s largest retailers, Woolworths. Maleki has received purchase orders totaling $60,000 and projects 2012 revenues of $150,000 to $200,000. He has also hired two independent contractors to handle sales and marketing for Alka Power.

Alka Power had a successful summer season in Australia, where it is currently sold in 100 stores;
eventually, Maleki hopes to expand his distribution network to 300 locations. To do so, he’s working
with Stewart to expand his marketing campaign and determine how best to educate Australian
consumers about the product.

“The support I get from Michael Baker is priceless, and Lynn is not only a counselor, but a mentor
and a friend,” says Maleki. “Cesar Arellanes has been an extra motivator, too. In fact, I feel like I can
call every one of the [Business Advisors] on a personal level and talk about anything. The SBDC has
added an extra level of support to my business.”