Saipanpreneur Profile: The InkBox

By Walt F.J. Goodridge

Special to the Saipan Tribune
Originally published: Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The only way to take control of your life, raise your standard of living and move beyond merely surviving is to create your own unique product or service that you offer to increasing numbers of people in exchange for the things of value that you desire. This simple formula applies to countries as well as people. A self-sufficient economy has its own products or services of value to export to the world. Similarly, a self-sufficient individual has something of value to exchange in the global marketplace. That thing of value is based on your natural talent, skill, or interest—in other words, your passion!

At the south end of Middle Road, across from the Big Garden Restaurant, is one of Saipan’s newest business ventures. You might have seen its bright gold and black sign spring up a few weeks ago. It’s called the InkboxT.

I spoke recently with Bernie Mabalot, Inkbox's main sales agent and technical guru. Bernie, originally from Manila, has a wife and two children in the Philippines. He's been on Saipan for the past three years. Bernie and I had a long hour-and-a-half discussion of he and his partner's business and the printer industry, and I learned much more about printers, toners, cartridges, refilling and recycling than I thought there was to learn.

So, Bernie, what does the InkboxT do?

“The Inkbox recycles and remanufactures ink-jet printer cartridges and laser printer toner cartridges Instead of buying a new cartridge once your ink or toner is finished, you can bring it to us, we'll refill it with the right toner or ink, and save you anywhere from 40 percent to 60 percent off the price of buying a new one.”

That's a cool idea. What gave you the idea to start it here on Saipan?

“Actually, I had the idea from back in the Philippines, but it was actually your workshop, Walt, the one you did at the Multi-Purpose Center for Filipino contract workers that got me inspired to take the leap. We were still considering it at the time, and when I attended your workshop, you spoke about starting your own business, so I decided why not? I took the idea to my business partner, who I met through our church, and he got us started.”

You said you had the idea back in the Philippines? Tell us about that.

“About 5 years ago, I owned an InkTycoon franchise in the Philippines. After about one and a half years, another competitor entered the market, and things got saturated there. So we decided to do it here on Saipan.”

Aren't you wary of economic conditions right now?

“You said in your workshop, Walt, that there are only two ways to make a profit: charge more money or spend less money. Inkbox was conceived at the time in Saipan’s economy where people, especially businesses, are looking to save money. We have a great opportunity for people to save money, so this is just the right time to start this type of business, and we can grow along with Saipan.”

Who were your customers then, and who are your customers now?

“We had government contracts, private corporations, and just regular people. Anyone with a printer can save money recycling.”

And what brands do you support?

“HP, Samsung, Sharp, Dell, Lexmark, Panasonic, and many more. HP is more popular, and we support HP because, unlike other companies, they have a supportive and liberal policy regarding third-party ink resellers like us. But, just about any brand that's out there, we can refill it.”

What does refilling a cartridge entail?

Bernie proceeds to give me a quick lesson in the reconstruction of a TN-530 Brother® toner cartridge. He disassembles it, and shows me the wiper blade, doctor blade, OPD (Organic Photo-sensitive Drum), PCR (Photo conductor roller), magnetic roller sleeve, chips, toner sensor bar, corona wire, recovery blade, seal strip, and the casing.

Inkbox: “When someone brings us an inkjet cartridge, or laser toner cartridge, we open it, clean or replace the foam, replace the filters, refill the ink, and test the circuitry to make sure it's working correctly.

“We check everything, replace any worn parts, and check to make sure the optical density is almost the same as the original, and we guarantee our work 100 percent.”

Here's a question I ask anyone who's considering starting a business: What makes your business special, Bernie? Why should I have my cartridge re-filled, remanufactured, or recycled by you rather than the other guy?

Inkbox: “Well, our training and support comes from the mainland U.S. Our materials and parts come from Germany. We guarantee that we have the highest technology in remanufacturing available on Saipan.

“We have the newest type of ink from Hewlett Packard. It's called Vivera Ink, and we have the exact formulation from Germany.

“There are 70-80 types of toners in the market. Each has a different melting point and tribocharge (Tribocharge is the generating of a static charge on two surfaces that come in contact and then separate with each other-laser printers use static electricity to attract the toner material in the pattern or image of the work onto the drum to transfer onto the paper-a bit more than we needed to know, Bernie!), so we use the specific toner for every specific printer cartridge. We don’t use universal toner in our cartridge. No generic toner or ink, only the exact ink for the exact printer based on the manufacturer's specifications.

“We are an environmentally friendly company. We use biodegradable packaging and reusable bags. We recycle your cartridge a maximum of 7-8 times, then we dispose of it for you.

What are some of the advantages of remanufacturing and refilling over buying new?

“Well, the first benefit is the financial savings. If you were to buy a new toner cartridge like this one, for example, you might spend $120. A reconditioned one might cost you $79.

“Second, you're doing something significant to save the environment. [Bernie shows me the thumb-sized cartridge for my own Epson printer) It takes 5 liters of oil to produce this one little cartridge. And when you throw it away, because it's an industrial weight plastic, it takes 500 years to decompose.

“Third, as you know, sometimes replacements of many items-not just cartridges-aren't always available here on Saipan. So, you can always get a toner re-conditioned or an ink cartridge for any kind of printer refilled when a replacement isn't available on island.

“Finally, when you refill, you'll actually get more yield (pages printed) than if you buy it new.”

How's that possible?

“We actually put more ink in a refilled cartridge than what you got when you bought it new!”

What’s the turnaround time?

“Since we usually carry an inventory of pre-filled, tested cartridges, we can simply swap one of ours for yours while you wait. If we don't have one in stock, it may take half a day.”

I would imagine that just about every business would have a need for your services, especially if their work is paper-intensive-lawyers, hotels, government agencies, just about everyone.

“There's a lot of awareness here on Saipan for the need to recycle and to cut costs. Right now we are working with organizations including DEQ (Department of Environmental Quality) here on Saipan. It makes sense that they would be one of the first to do what makes sense environmentally. We were approached by Chris Wallace of DEQ, and we are currently negotiating with them.

“Any business that wants to save money can give us a call. We'll send our technician out to your site to determine your needs.

“We will invest in the technology to give you the best service. There are special machines needed for the refilling process. We invest in the technology to have those on hand just for them. We support the cost of having printers to test your cartridge, and also stock up on inventory for you for 2-3 cycles.”

What are some of your plans for the future?

“Environmental awareness is part of our business. We want to educate the public and students at schools about the advantage of recycling and caring for the environment. We'll be working with divers on Saipan to keep the beaches and dive sites clean. We will be supporting the Beautify CNMI campaign. We'll keep educating the public about the beauty we have here and why it's important to take action like recycling to preserve it.”

Any advice for other potential Saipanpreneurs?

“Try to focus on your passion. I'm not trying to take over your business concept, Walt, but it really works! I have a few passions. I'm a geek. So dealing with the technology, tinkering with a new product that could benefit the consumer, discovering innovation, that's what I enjoy doing! There's an old question that asks: How can you eat an elephant? The answer is you take one bite at a time! Whether you are fulfilling your dreams, starting a business, dealing with competitors, you can achieve anything you want if you take one bite at a time!”

InkBox is open Monday to Saturday from 9am to 6pm, the InkboxT official grand opening date is Saturday, June 14, 2008. They can be reached at 234-2465 or 888-5252.

Note: For more tips on acting on your ideas, changing the game, and creating a passion-centered lifestyle, visit!

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Until next week, remember, success is a journey, not a destination!

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