Innovative shelf makes charging electronics a breeze

What is on your nightstand? A phone, charging overnight, possibly next to a book, eyeglasses and a cup of water?

One of the many products coming out of the boom of small businesses and entrepreneurship in the Port Huron region aims to Tina Frazier of the Economic Development Alliance, Ed Cass, and Dan Cass at the Catapult Business Regional Compeitition.keep your bedside needs within reach while wirelessly charging electronic devices. It is hitting the market just in time for the holidays.

Smart Shelf LLC created ez Smart Shelf, a multifunctional wireless charging station that weighs about two pounds. Better than a bulky nightstand, it is portable and charges electronics including Apple and Android phones. Better than a wireless charger, it conveniently holds personal items and has a cup holder.

The slab fits in between a mattress and box spring, making the product ideal for all rooms, but especially dormitories, tiny houses, motorhomes and even boats. A wireless charging transmitter is plugged into an outlet, so Qi compatible products charge simply by sitting on a spot on the shelf's surface, and consumers don't have three or four cords jumbling up into a tangle.

Founders Dan and Ed Cass grew up in the Blue Water region and have fond memories of fishing and boating on their family's Lake St. Clair property.

Vice President Ed Cass, whose brother Dan Cass is president of the company, says it was an "easy choice" to live in the Blue Water region as adults and start their business here. The St. Clair business manufactures its products out of Algonac and has tapped into many local resources.

Ez Smart Shelf recently won three first place competitions: Emerge Fund Pitch Night through the Economic Development Alliance of St. Clair County, the Community Capital Club, and The Underground Business Incubator, and the Catapult Business and Catapult Regional Competitions through I-69 Thumb Region. Ed says money from these helped make ez Smart Shelf a reality, as well as the chance to find business opportunities he may not have known existed otherwise.

Dan has 25 years of experience in the electrical field and 13 in technical sales, holding many leadership positions along the way. Ed has 22 years in marketing, branding, and visual communications. Although the brothers, the company's only employees at the moment, started out with the idea and have sacrificed much to launch their dream product, they say working as a team with the community and taking advice was essential to getting their business running.

"Don't try to go at it alone. Network, connect, and build your extended team of people you can access when needed," Ed says. He also credits words his dad instilled in him: patience, practice and persistence.

Owning a business takes commitment. The idea for their product came with a patent filed in 2015 when the first prototypes were made in Denver, where Dan lived at the time. QVC was looking to place a large order, but the brothers soon found the charging component they used was being discontinued. Since then, the company has rebranded, redesigned, developed a new website, found new manufacturing, and accessed many resources in our Michigan community. Dan and Ed have worked 14 hour days leading up to this launch. Ed says he has felt "defeated' at times, but the passion makes it worth it. It's apparent, listening to Ed's incredibly enthusiastic demeanor amid the exhaustion, that the siblings care about their product.

"The passion drives you to lose track of time and the number of hours you put in simply because you have a vision and you continually see opportunities to make a difference," Ed says. "(It) both excites you and drives you to do more."

Ed and Dan didn't want to release a product until it met their high standards.

The Smart Shelf simplifies life with easy wireless charging.They have thought of everything down to ease of cleaning and the quality materials that make up the shelf. They have already thought about expanding the line to keep up with technology and trends. The slab is Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certified, made from eco-friendly products, and reduces the number of bad cords that need to be replaced every few months. Because ez Smart Shelf works through inductive charging, minimal electricity is used. It detects high voltage and overheating, eliminating the hazards of sleeping with electronics charging on sheets or under a pillow.

The forward-thinking shelf pairs nicely with the up-and-coming idea of wireless charging and accessories that will come along with it. Wireless could end up being commonplace, and cords old news, which certainly seems to be the case taking into account new phones that charge this way, like the iPhone 8. The shelf is Qi certified with its embedded charger for these new phones, but most older phones are capable of being wireless with Qi receivers. Ez Smart Shelf sells a package that retrofits iPhones 5-7 with a wireless charging receiver that fits in a phone cover for $10 more than the Ez Smart Shelf itself.

Black Friday pre-orders for the Ez Smart Shelf are available online for $59.99, a $20 discount.

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