TurtleCell begins selling iPhone case with retractable earbuds

TurtleCell is starting to sell the first wave of its iPhone case with retractable earphones this spring, and is gearing up to for its next big shipment of cases.

The Ann Arbor-based startup received its first shipment of cases (10,000 in total) and is marketing them for sale online and in retail stores. They are currently available in 25 Michigan-based Verizon stores. TurtleCell’s second cohort of iPhone cases (30,000) is in production and set to arrive later this year.

TurtleCell was launched three years ago by a handful of University of Michigan undergrads who were tired of constantly untangling their earbuds whenever they reached in their pocket for their iPhone. The answer was an iPhone case with retractable earbuds.

"It's a convenience product so you don't loose or tangle your earbuds," says Jeremy Lindlbauer, director of brand & marketing for TurtleCell. "It also protects your iPhone."

The team experimented with the concept for a little more than a year. Trying to build it out with a failed crowd funding campaign and other trial-and-error moves. They really started to gain traction when they entered the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition. The product won the People's Choice award two years running but more importantly was introduced to Auburn Hills-based consumer electronics company Digital Treasurers.

That gave TurtleCell the expertise and the seed capital it needed to more its product development forward smartly. Today it’s selling its cases for the iPhone 5 and iPhone 5S for $39.95. It plans to add iPhone 6 compatible cases later this year when its second production shipment arrives.

To keep up with that growth TurtleCell has expanded its staff to seven people, hiring four in the last year. Those new hires included designers and multimedia professionals. It is currently looking to add a couple more employees.

"We are always looking," Lindlbauer says. "We are usually looking for an electrical engineer. It depends on the fit."

Source: Jeremy Lindlbauer, director of brand & marketing for TurtleCell
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.
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