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Entrepreneurs Find a Market at Vegas Conventions

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(Photo KXNT SamStone) Cesar Ramirez sells thousands of hand-rolled cigars to convention exhibitors who want to impress visitors on the trade show floor.

(Photo KXNT SamStone) Cesar Ramirez sells thousands of hand-rolled cigars to convention exhibitors who want to impress visitors on the trade show floor.

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(LAS VEGAS CBS KXNT)  Las Vegas venues host hundreds of trade shows and conferences each year.  Tourism officials often remind us it’s good for the local economy.

Cesar Ramirez is one Las Vegas entrepreneur who finds a need and fills it at the shows, selling thousands of hand-rolled cigars to conference exhibitors who want to impress prospective customers on the convention floor.

” I believe in show business,” he said. “This is very attractive to bring the customer into the booth.”

Cesar is sitting at the entrance to the AutRevo booth this week at the Independent Auto Dealers Association show, where he will roll about 70 cigars today, and band them with a label bearing the AutoRevo logo.  Ramirez sold a thousand cigars up front to the company, a developer of automotive websites.

Ramirez says casino guests enjoy Las Vegas because you can smoke anywhere. (Not true, exactly, but the large casinos are friendly to smokers.)

“It’s anti-stress,” he said.  “It’s for relaxing, a glass of wine, business matters, play golf. They use the cigar to socialize, you know?”

Ramirez learned  his craft at age 22 at the historic Romeo and Juliet Factory in Havana, Cuba.  He works about 20 conventions each year.

No disputing that locals benefit from the trade shows, but how about the entrepreneurs who come to Las Vegas with hopes of launching a new product?

The founders of Auto Shocker believe the car dealers at this show are the perfect target for their product, which eliminates odors in cars, especially cigarette smoke.

Partners Juancarlos Baselli and Spencer Blua hired a chemist to come up with a new way to dispense chlorine dioxide, a gas that attacks odors at the molecular level.

The reformulated chemical product comes in an envelope, packaged with a plastic cup. When it’s mixed with water and left in the cup holder overnight, a chemical fumigation process occurs.

“Because it is a gas, it can permeate any porous surface,” Blua said.  “That’s why it’s able go into the seats, foam, carpet.”

The company, Biocide Systems, has sold Auto Shocker online.  The long-term goal is to get into retail venues like AutoZone.

Another need to fill at a convention of auto dealers?  A cheaper, easier way for people who make car payments in cash to pay.

PayNearMe serves the “underbanked” –  people without bank accounts and credit cards.  For many auto dealers, selling cars on credit to the underbanked is a big piece of the business.

PayNearMe has made a deal with 7-11 stores to accept payment. 7-11 charges the customer a transaction fee and transfers the money to the car dealer. The dealer pays no transaction fee, but  instead buys web-based software from PayNearMe that allows the dealers to view the payment records.  It’s less expensive than traditional electronic payments.

PayNearMe also gets a piece of the action when the 7-11 customers pick up a bag chips and a soda.

The Silicon Valley company initially conceived the PayNearMe model  as a consumer-to-consumer payment system for  users of games like Farmville to pay for virtual goods.  The original product was called Kwedit.

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