MSU alum Minh Tran has combined his passion for sports and his entrepreneurial spirit and created a rapidly-growing international business called Executive Fan. With the help of Port Lansing, Tran has been able to delay initial costs and give his business the jump-start it needed to succeed.
Executive Fan is an innovative, manufacturing, marketing, and distributing company focused on bringing fans unique products that connect them with their favorite sports teams. The first product on the market is a special type of office, packaging, and duct tape with college logos called Fan Tape. This tape can be used for anything from wrapping and packaging gifts and boxes, to designing dorm rooms and book covers. The idea was developed in 2009 by Tran and a few of his friends—all avid sports fans—and they began in a basement, testing samples and working on licensing and market analysis. Their first customer was Meijer, and they have since expanded to include Kroger, Giant Eagle, pharmacies such as Walgreens, and some college book stores.
“We knew that people are always tied to their schools, even when they leave,” said Tran. “Now we have fans of our products all over the world, because international students want to stay connected to their favorite schools here in the states.”
Tran’s products are produced overseas, however much of their packaging and other components are sourced domestically and locally. Tran is the first user of the General Purpose Zone, which allows the company to access most of the benefits of the Foreign Trade Zone (FTZ) both quickly and easily. These benefits include delaying duty payments, direct delivery of imported goods and clearing customs in Lansing.
“Minh Tran is a global entrepreneur that has taken an idea and surrounded himself with the right people to successfully launch his company,” said Brent Case, Vice President of International Business for the Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce. “He knows how to leverage area resources to benefit his business.”
“The biggest challenge for us has been licensing overseas, because of the language barriers and coordinating with multiple partners to make sure we are all on the same page,” said Tran. Tran and his team will continue to develop new, niche products for his customers, as well as to expand his market through national public relations initiatives with other companies.
Tran’s advice to young entrepreneurs is to stick with your vision and don’t get off path.
“I started at one of the worst times for businesses and I survived” said Tran. “If you believe in it, do it.”