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David and Anita Presley of Zap Labeler in Carbondale.

CARBONDALE — As David Presley strolls through the aisles of a supermarket, he can often point out products or brands with ties to his Carbondale-based company. The affiliation comes not from ingredients nor transportation, but as Presley scans the grocery shelves he often can identify packages labeled using a Zap Labeler, a machine made and sold by Presley’s four-person company.

Operating out of a 1,000-square-foot workshop, Presley’s company manufactures and sells what Presley calls low-cost, high-output manual and semi-automatic labeling machines designed for home-based and small businesses. In less than five years, the company has sold nearly 4,000 units, priced between $400 and $600. Presley says that the machine has helped to give start-up products a more-professional and shelf-ready look.

“The magic of the machine is that it will label practically anything: boxes, bags, bottles, almost any kind of packaging,” he said. “Because of our labeler, a lot of small companies have been able to get their stuff labeled quickly and have it look nice so they can get it on the shelves.”

Presley said the Zap Labeler is operated by a single person and it applies adhesive labels from a roll quickly and accurately. The company offers four models including a semi-automatic system capable of applying up to 900 labels an hour. He says it is the company’s top seller.

About 25 percent of Zap Labeler’s sales are overseas, Presley says.

“We do a lot of business with what some would call third-world countries -- places without electricity or much infrastructure,” he said. “People in these countries are starting businesses, just like many in the U.S.”

Zap Labeler’s own business began with Presley’s father, Bob, a serial inventor. After formulating an anti-itch cream, the senior Presley invented a simple machine to put the product into packaging (a machine still manufactured and sold by his cousin). That led to another invention to label bottles (this one sold to a family friend), and yet another invention to inexpensively and efficiently screw caps on bottles. Bob Presley then turned his attention to building a machine to label all sorts of packages and boxes. More interested in inventing than starting a business, he entered a royalty agreement with son David and the new company was born.

“We both knew that he didn’t really care for the business part of it so we came up with a plan,” David wrote on the company’s website. “I would start a business manufacturing and selling Zap Labelers and would give ‘pops’ a royalty for each machine we sold. It was a win for us both. He didn’t have to mess with starting a business and could focus on inventing, and I had business that gave me dreams of being able to quit my day job.”

Presley says most of Zap Labeler’s sales are over the internet. Paid online advertising and word-of-mouth are the primary means of marketing the units. The company manufactures practically every component of the machines.

“We have a full machine shop and we do all of the manufacturing ourselves,” Presley said. “We do outsource one or two of the more complex components, but that’s mostly because of time constraints. We’re basically a one-stop shop.”

Presley says he wants to expand the business to provide even more services for small businesses. He is looking at offering packaging management for clients and perhaps even doing contract labeling for other manufacturers. For now, he is proud to be helping other businesses fill a need with their own products.

“I have an enormous amount of satisfaction in that we directly help small and home businesses become profitable and to get their products on the shelves,” he said. “I feel like we help contribute to the economy and the general welfare of a lot of people because we are entrepreneurs helping other entrepreneurs.”


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