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April 26, 2010 LOCAL INSIGHT

Special Employees Fuel CompUshade Success

Carlos Toro whispers in gusts of broken words. It’s difficult for him to make direct eye contact. But put a few pieces of Velcro and polyethylene in front of him and he’ll create something with flawless precision.

Toro is the secret weapon behind CompUshade, a four-ounce retractable sun blocking shield for laptops and GPS devices that was invented 10 years ago by Avon engineer Michael Dulberger.

Dulberger admits CompUshade will never “be as good as working indoors,” but he says it allows people to fully use their laptops in the sun.

His web-based business, Dulco LLC, earns revenues of about $250,000 a year, according to Dulberger, and one of his biggest customers is the U.S. Army.

For nearly four years, Dulberger has been relying on a special group of people to put together the pieces that make CompUshade. CW Resources Inc., a Connecticut nonprofit that places people with disabilities in jobs, assembles nearly 1,000 of Dulberger’s products a month.

“Carlos is the only client capable of working on (CompUshade),” said Chris Kauffman, production manager at CW Resources, which employed over 500 people with disabilities in community job sites throughout the state last year. Recently, CW filled a one-million -unit packaging order of binder clips for the 2010 U.S. Census and partnered with Maxwell House to package coffee boxes for U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan. Kauffman says CW Resources employees typically make at least $8.25 an hour, but if they’re able to work at accelerated speeds, like Toro, they can earn up to $20 an hour for their work.

“Most people would be surprised at the details disabled clients are able to pick up on,” Kauffman remarked, adding that his definition of “disabled” ranges from anyone with a mental illness, such as agoraphobia, to a physical disability.

Dulberger is one satisfied customer. “These guys (at CW Resources) do a better job for me than commercial companies I’ve worked with. They’re dedicated, they’re not watching the clock and they’ve never made a mistake in four years of working with them,” Dulberger said, noting he found out about CW Resources through a contact at Favarh.

A self-described “tinkerer,” Dulberger has always been drawn to experimentation. One of his first creations was a bird pole holder, which he found difficult to sell. It was one day 10 years ago that he invented the CompUshade concept out of frustration: he had been searching for a way to work outside with his laptop and ended up designing an “accordion” type device in his basement. After successfully using it outdoors, he decided to see if other laptop users might find his invention useful.

Dulberger took some of his savings and built a catchy website, which to this day, he says, is his only marketing tool. Using the Thomas Register Directory at his local library, he was able to find suppliers that could create the parts he needed. Eventually, he got the green light on his patents and started making about 100 CompUshades a week. His first clients, which he said found him through his website, included the U.S. Transportation Security Administration.

Dulberger now manufactures nearly 10,000 CompUshades a year and sells four models that fit up to a 17-inch laptop. Prices range from about $20-30 a shade.

Recently, Dulberger sold several CompUshades to a software company that helps golfers see their swings outside on computers.

“There are so many niches I never knew were out there that are interested in my products,” Dulberger said. “Nothing has really slowed down for us. Every year, business gets a little bit better. And I don’t know what I’d do without the folks at CW Resources.”



Joanna Smiley, a Hartford area freelancer, writes the weekly Local Insight column for The Hartford Business Journal.

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