Entrepreneur Scores Big as Scooter and Gokart Importer, Mini-EV cart and Bus Maker

Source: http://www.postandcourier.com/article/20150905/PC2107/150909569


Justin Jackrel will always be a Florida Gator, but his vehicle-related business, as of this summer, is South Carolina homesteaded.

Born in New Jersey, the youthful businessman graduated from the University of Florida in Gainesville and set up his first venture in 2000 importing gas-powered scooters from China. The company, based in the Florida Gators’ home town, expanded over the next 15 years to scooters and go-karts. Jackrel’s venture also built “low speed vehicles,” specifically electric golf carts and larger all-aluminum electric minibuses housing up to 29 passengers, under the citEcar name.

Then in 2015, he got an offer that would swamp his Florida operation and leave him with a gut-wrenching decision, whether or not to accept a deal that would require him to move out of Gainesville, which has little large commercial warehouse and manufacturing space.

In the end, Jackrel chomped on the chance to be the exclusive U.S. distributor of high-end Adly scooters from Taiwan. He immediately scanned the Southeast trying to locate a warehouse large enough to hold the imported motorbikes and also provide room for the EV manufacturing operations.

The search would lead him to Charleston. His company Bintelli LLC relocated this summer to a vacated movie studio on Dobbin Road west of the Ashley. “We’ve got four acres of space here,” he said. The commercial building covers 60,000 square feet, including 7,000 square feet for parts storage, and is large enough to produce 2,000 vehicles a year

Jackrel, who in 2013 visited the White House by invitation with close to 100 other entrepreneurs, also moved the Bintelli headquarters here. Goods will be shipped to and from the port of Charleston. The company started promoting its transfer here a few weeks ago.

Bintelli LLC continues to fully ramp up operations in Charleston. “It took a lot of time,” Jackrel said in a recent interview from a makeshift conference area. “It’s pretty organized for what it was three months ago,” he said.

Right out the gate, the company secured a local distributor, Lowcountry Golf Carts in Mount Pleasant. “In four weeks (the retailer) sold all of the inventory,” Jackrel said.

Scooters, also known as mopeds in South Carolina and elsewhere, continue to make up a large share of the company’s business. “I was the first to import gas scooters (from) China, in 2000,” he said. Over the years, Jackrel visited China and secured the best factories he could find for reliable, quality workmanship. They include two operations in Shanghai, one in Ningbo and one in Yanqing.

The Bintelli scooters, which can reach speeds of 80 mph, cost from $949 to $1,699. They can be found at local retailers. Adly scooters are priced from $1,800 to $2,300, according to online sites.

Jackrel said the business started assembling racing go-karts as an extension of the golf cart business. The racing karts are more sophisticated than the low-to-the-ground vehicles at amusement parks and recreational tracks. They’re priced from $995 to $1,399.

“There are leagues, you can go every Saturday,” Jackrel said. Most NASCAR drivers, he said, start as youths in go-kart racing.

Even before the Adly deal, the entrepreneur had been scouting around Gainesville for three years looking for extra space with no success. He got just three months advance notice when the Adly orders came in. Jackrel looked at Tampa and Savannah before he “fell in love with Charleston.”

Bintelli counts 13 employees now, including a number of workers who moved from Florida, and intends to increase to the “15-20 range,” Jackrel said. The company is approaching scooter sales of 3,000 a year. They are “doing really well.” Bintelli LLC rolls out 700 to 1,000 electric vehicles a year. With two plant lines in Charleston, the company can build up to 2,000 EVs. Meanwhile, the firm assembles 400-500 go-karts a year.

The electric vehicles can travel up to 105 miles on a charge. They sell through distribution channels as far away as Brazil. Golf carts start at $6,995 and run to $10,000 for an eight seater. Extras include beverage coolers and DVD players. The buses are available enclosed or open, with wind and rain guards and can also include public address systems. A 15-passenger bus is priced at $20,000. The scooter-kart-EV venture catalogs the best selling colors and works with retailers to customize the products.

According to Jackrel, the company has beefed up its production efficiency. Where it once took three employees a day to build four EVs, they now can make nine in that same time frame.

Jackrel said his entrepreneurial spirit goes back to his days growing up in New Jersey. “I had three jobs. I paid for every tank of gas.”

In Florida, he also owned a landscaping company that grew at a fast rate before he sold it to a top employee. His wife Holly is an entrepreneur also, heading up Pristine Clean residential and commercial cleaning service in Gainesville. “She’s great, rocking it out,” he said.

Bintelli LLC has no immediate expansion plans, beyond incorporating Adly into the distribution chain. The Taiwanese manufacturing companies were so keen about the deal that they flew their global sales teams to Charleston to see the operations, he said.

“We are happy with what we are doing,” Jackrel said. “We don’t need to reinvent the wheel.”