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Paper salesman finds niche with white board substitute

Mike Fogarty, the company founder, rolls up Wizard Wall with meeting notes from office wall.
Mike Fogarty, the company founder, rolls up Wizard Wall with meeting notes from office wall. (Jeffrey MacMillan - For The Washington Post)

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By Sharon McLoone
Monday, June 14, 2010

When Mike Fogarty picks up a piece of paper, he doesn't just see a blank sheet crying out for some ink or the potential for a cool origami trick.

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He sees much more. Fogarty looks at that sheet and can tell right away how much it weighs, what it's made out of and likely where it originated.

Fogarty has been working in the printing industry for the last 25 years or so, mainly selling paper. He's an affable guy and a born salesman. During his tenure working for divisions of large paper firms such as Mead, he served clients as diverse as the World Bank and Fairfax County public schools.

The skills he has picked up along the way include knowing a good thing when he sees it.

So when Fogarty happened upon a special film made by ClingZ, a firm based in New Mexico, he immediately saw the potential.

Fogarty realized the product could be toted around like a large roll of wax paper. Tear off a piece, slap it on a wall and start writing -- instant white board. He dubbed his discovery Wizard Wall.

The patented, printable and recyclable material can cling to a wall for up to six months. It can be written on with dry-erase markers or washable crayons. It meets standards put forth by the Consumer Product Safety Commission as well as tougher European standards.

Fogarty also had it tested so that it meets Food and Drug Administration standards for direct food contact. His research paid off -- a caterer recently bought some to use for signage near food.

He also envisions teachers using it daily in their classrooms and meeting planners offering it as a presentation tool.

"It can be used for household to-do lists, complex presentations or kids can make banners with it," Fogarty said. "People who use it keep coming up with ideas for it I haven't even thought of."

ClingZ didn't have the resources to bring the hard-to-make film to market, Fogarty said, and so the firm granted him exclusive rights to introduce it and find new applications.

His Alexandria business is not yet profitable; it only began selling the product two months ago and is in the process of ramping up sales. Fogarty hopes to be profitable in six months.

Currently Wizard Wall is only available online at www.wizardwall.com, but Fogarty plans to sell it in office supply and retail stores. (A 50-foot roll of 30-inch wide white film costs $109.)

He said he's always had an eye for entrepreneurship, even when he watched the paper industry go through periods of rapid mergers and collapse.

"I saw a lot of opportunity out there for new products and new ways of doing things," Fogarty said. "A lot of the industry consolidation made the industry more worried about jobs and not very interested in coming up with new ideas, but that left a lot of room for people who had ideas."

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