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Loss of job led to new venture

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Two scenarios are at the genesis of many new businesses. The first involves an idea that lures a person away from the security of their job; the second is the job that leaves the person, who then has to decide what to do next.

The latter describes the founding of Orem-based Propeller Inc., a $40 million computer hardware reseller specializing in laptop components. Propeller was founded in 1991 by Earl and Julie Christensen.Earl Christensen lost his computer-industry job and had to decide whether to re-venture into the computer arena or try something completely new. The Christensens decided Earl's industry experience was too valuable to waste, so the couple decided to start a business focused on portable computer accessories: laptop memory, batteries, modems and the like.

The plan to focus the business on laptop accessories and not on the computers themselves was a financial one: It would be easier to finance 100 memory cards at $300 each than 100 laptops at $3,000 each. Propeller approached manufacturers and suppliers with an offer to actively sell their products if they would give the fledgling company credit on the goods it would sell.

Christensen had suppliers and manufacturers attend sales calls to potential corporate customers to give Propeller a bigger look and industry connection. Propeller also worked with suppliers to develop better laptop hardware, claiming to be the first company in the world to sell a 32-megabyte memory expansion card for a portable computer.

The Christensens believe selling computer hardware amounts to only 10 percent of their transaction with a customer. Propeller is also providing toll-free technical support, authorized repair, computer configuration services, asset management, an equipment replacement program, software and hardware upgrades, computer refurbishment and redeployment services, and an Internet showroom.