COVID-19 relief options and additional resources

Veteran-Owned Discount Vials Moves from Surplus to Success

Business owner Rhett Roeth, his wife and daughter at Discount Vials in Madison

Veteran Rhett Roeth has built a successful company from the basement up. Back in 1999, Rhett Roeth walked into the University of Wisconsin Madison’s Surplus With a Purpose (SWAP) store looking for a business to buy, any business. Roeth already knew how he was going to make money with his new venture; he was quick to recognize the power of online auction sites on the Internet and, it being 1999, he didn’t have too much competition. The only problem was, Roeth had no idea what he was going to sell. He was at the mercy of whatever Madison’s SWAP store had in stock. SWAP, as it turned out, had surplus glass for sale that day. “And the rest, as they say, is history,” Roeth said.


So began Discount Vials, a Madison-based distributor of glass packaging. Roeth has guided his startup from selling a few glass vials from his basement to now owning his own warehouses with a client list and five employees.  Roeth served in United States Navy from 1975-1981, and Discount Vials is a certified Service Disabled Veteran Owned Business. While the military instilled Roeth with discipline and a strong work ethic, his knowledge of computers led to Discount Vial’s initial growth. “My first love was the Internet, so I know quite a bit about search engine optimization,” he said. Roeth’s business quickly outgrew his basement, and he couldn’t find enough test tubes, glassware and packaging to keep up with his orders. He started searching for a manufacturer. He also sought advice from the Small Business Development Center at UW Madison for how to best grow his business.

His first business counselor at the SBDC, the since-retired Jack Reiners, proved to be invaluable in his quest to move into a warehouse. “Jack had such a well-rounded knowledge base,” Roeth said. “If I had a question that he didn’t have the answer to himself, he knew where to go to find the answer.”  Roeth also used a $30,000 SBA 7(a) loan to grow the business. Since moving into the warehouse, Roeth has been able to buy the glassware in huge quantities, leading to what he said are the lowest prices in the industry. “In this business, there are a thousand different variations of types of glass,” he said. “So while we might not have everything, what we do have we buy in big quantities, and that allows us to beat just about everyone in terms of pricing.”

Roeth sees Discount Vial’s potential for growth expanding daily along with his ever-increasing  customer list. The business has also become a family enterprise as his wife and daughter have joined the company.  Roeth said he is grateful to have signed up for counseling at the SBDC, for it gives him someone to “bounce his ideas off of” while plotting his expansion. No matter how large his orders get, however, Roeth will look to keep things small, organized and disciplined at Discount Vials. “Being a little company, a lot of our customers feel they get better service from us,” he said.

Company Name: 
Discount Vials