But when they went to trade shows to sell their new product, the two Simi Valley men started meeting women who told them that with minor modifications, their organizer would be good for scrapbooking.
"We looked into the industry and found that it was really huge," Inoue said. "We went ahead and designed our product to adapt to the scrapbooking industry."
From there it was a snowball effect as they met more scrapbookers who led them to open a store in Simi Valley this spring, with the name E.B.B. Creations based on Bilsland's initials.
Now they sell hundreds of items that can be used in scrapbooking along with 20 workstations where scrapbookers can gather to produce their books and share ideas. Each station has a cupholder and electrical outlets for heat guns, glue guns, die cutters and even sewing machines.
"We found friends who scrapbook and started picking their brains about what was hot," said Inoue of the mostly women scrapbookers."It's a very social group of people, very welcoming and friendly."
He said the spirit of cooperation extends to the crafts stores in the area that also sell scrapbooking supplies, with customers going from store to store looking for products to fulfill their individual creative visions.
Bilsland said what goes on in the world of scrapbooking sometimes seems "stranger than fiction."
"We even had a Web customer from Mexico who walked in the door here one day," Bilsland said. "Here in the U.S. the industry is pretty well-established. But it is a burgeoning industry in Norway, Japan and all over the world — Mexico, Finland, Brazil. Before we opened this store we had more Norwegian customers than customers in California."
Bilsland said his female customers ask him and Inoue all the time if their wives scrapbook, and are surprised to learn they do not.
"Our customers can't believe it, because to them this is like a candy store," he said. "For some it's more of an art thing than just a hobby. They are putting a lot of individual effort into what are really works of art, one of a kind. You can't reproduce these things. You are only limited by your imagination."
One of the customers in E.B.B. Creations recently was Sheila Fernandez of Simi Valley, who said she and her husband, Alfredo, are helping to make scrapbooking more popular among boys through the Cub Scouts.
"I do it because I want to document my family's history, so in the future my children can remember this is our family and this is our history," Fernandez said.
"... We did a wonderful Cub Scout scrapbook project, and the boys just loved it. We explained how important it was — your history. There are more boys and men getting involved in it, because they can see the importance of it."
Inoue said he has had only a few men walk into his shop, including a brawny biker who came in recently to find rub-on letters for his motorcycle.
But all sorts of women are interested in scrapbooking, including stay-at-home mothers and women in a variety of occupations, including doctors.
The more they learn about scrapbooking, the more they see the possibilities, Inoue said.
People can make careers out of scrapbooking, submitting their layouts to manufacturers of various scrapbooking materials who are looking for people to promote their products.
Some scrapbookers have their work featured in magazines, in books and on the Internet.
"They might wind up traveling across the country promoting a product by teaching classes," Inoue said. "The avenues in scrapbooking are incredible."
Eric Leach, (805) 583-7602