Specialty Optical Equipment Manufacturer The Buzz


Newcon International was originally set up to export shoes to Russia. One day, a customer paid for their shoes with $50,000 worth of night-vision binoculars instead of cash. The company began peddling the binoculars to sports stores in Toronto and Montreal. Overnight, Newcon's booming new business was optics.

Newcon now makes specialty optical equipment. It grosses $4.4 million a year. Prior to launching the business, Beker worked in a Russian optical factory for 25 years. Industry contacts proved valuable in finding the wholesaler that supplied Newcon with raw materials for the first two years it was in business.

Specialty optical equipment manufacturers produce a variety of items -- from microscopes and gun scopes, to night-vision binoculars and telescopes. These businesses cater to a very special group of end-users -- specialty retailers, wholesalers, and optical distributors. They in turn sell the company's product to doctors, surgeons, scientists, educators and other professionals.

"We're looking forward to continued growth through further improvements in our existing product line, new strategic alliances, and the establishment of more distributors worldwide," says Prilik. "We plan to keep our legacy of providing outstanding value and excellent service to our existing and new customers."

The company's new offerings include stabilized binoculars, which maintain a steady image in shaky hands. "[The] American military-spec project is very expensive," says Nick Efston, owner of an optics distribution company, in Profit magazine. "Newcon has a very good product at a very good price that's an affordable alternative for consumers."

Expanding Fields of Vision

In the ring with Newcon are many other successful manufacturers who have found their niche in the world of specialty optics. Among them are Leica and Carl Zeiss, Inc. -- two industry bigwigs whose names can be found on cameras, lenses and optical equipment worldwide.

According to Carl Zeiss -- a 150-year-old, New York-based company -- optical engineering is one of the most exacting technologies known to man, and progress in the field requires ever-increasing accuracy and precision.

And precision and accuracy pay well. "You can reasonably expect to earn about $50,000 to $100,000 a year -- after two to three years of starving," says Prilik.

As with any new company, it's best to have an additional source of income, or savings that will carry you through. You may have to live meagerly during your business's infancy, but it'll all pay off with effort and determination.

Med Link Medical

Company size or longevity isn't Med Link Medical's bragging point. The manufacturer of surgical microscopes has found success -- to the tune of about $3 million worth of microscopes, each of which are valued at $75,000.

But they've done it by catering to a small niche market largely ignored by industry giants: surgeons who do reconstructive microsurgery. That includes breast reconstructions, limb reattachments, and similar procedures related to trauma or cancer.

Lynn Kellen founded Med Link Medical -- she's a registered nurse with no background in business management. "I saw the need and I thought I could fill it. Being out of a job at the time, I was also too dumb to know what I was getting myself into!"

Med Link was started with a $90,000 Small Business Association loan and about $100,000 in investments from development funds run by Kellen's local organizations.

Farsighted Approach

For those looking to discover the next must-have piece of optical equipment, patience and determination will prove important during the initial stages.

"A background in marketing would be best for someone who wants to start a similar business," says Prilik. "First, you'll need to find your competitive product -- your niche. That will be the foundation of your successful business."

The entire industry is growing steadily -- microscopes and telescopes will always be in demand, and all industries (medicine in particular) are evolving technologically.

In addition, there'll always be room in the field for smaller manufacturers who can create products for specialty markets, rather than mass markets.

Links

Newcon International
Michael Beker and Arie Prilik's company

Carl Zeiss, Inc.
This 150-year-old firm is at the forefront of specialty optical equipment manufacturing

Med Link Medical
Kellen's company, which specializes in reconstructive surgical microscopes