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Rocking Origami

Friends find online success with foldable speakers.

When music lovers Jason Lucash (pictured right) and Mike Szymczak (pictured left) got their first marketing jobs, the duo found themselves on the road a lot, lugging around their suitcases—and their tunes—from one city to the next, marketing Major League Soccer. That’s when the friends decided they needed an easier, and more portable, way to listen to music.

“I have been into music since I could hear,” Szymczak says. “Honestly, I cannot do anything without it, including shower, clean, drive, exercise, work, etc. We both love finding new artists as well as going to live music events.”

But listening to tunes on the road was a challenge. None of the portable speakers the friends found were to their liking, so Lucash—formerly the bass player for a high-school garage band—came up with an idea to make their own environmentally friendly, foldable speakers they could take anywhere. It was a feasible idea, and today it’s turned into a global business.

The friends’ company, OrigAudio, now gets more than 400 orders a month and has been featured in magazines, on TV and in blogs. Their speakers even made it onto Time magazine’s list of the top 50 innovations for 2009.

“We have accomplished a lot for being a small team,” Szymczak says. “I am extremely happy that the general market has reacted so well to the products we have devoted lots of time into developing and producing. It is very rewarding to know that people are listening to the music that they have passion for through OrigAudio.”

“It is very rewarding to know people are listening to the music they have passion for through OrigAudio”

A new way to listen

The company aims to equip others with “the ultimate device for their listening pleasure,” it notes on its Facebook page.

From the get go, Lucash and Szymczak decided to make their speakers from recycled materials to make them “Mother Nature approved,” according to the company’s site. Incorporating a “green” aspect into the production was important to both men, and it worked to give them an edge in the market, as few electronics are eco-friendly.

OrigAudio also makes two speakers that customers can personalize with their designs, photos and images, adding another attractive feature to the products. In all, the company offers nine items. Each year, it introduces three to four new products, “mostly making upgrades to prior items for people who want to constantly have the latest and greatest,” Szymczak notes.

One of the company’s latest inventions is the Rock-IT 2.0. It lets listeners turn anything, from a cereal box, to a picture frame, to an oven hood or microwave into a speaker—and the company shows how this works in a video on its site. One customer used the device to turn his boat into a speaker.

Using video marketing to stand out

The company has successfully used YouTube, Facebook and Flickr to promote its foldable speakers, gaining more than 4,000 likes on Facebook and more than 450,000 views on YouTube.

“We pride ourselves on making creative and out-of-the norm videos,” Szymczak notes. “The Rock-It gets tons of views because it is one of those products you need to see to believe.”

The company also links its videos out to many partners, helping raise the view count. On Facebook, it has run several promos.

“If you are just starting out with a product, look to connect with some YouTube reviewers who have a strong following to do a review. It is low cost and can lead to great exposure,” Szymczak advises.

Added exposure through their video marketing efforts helped OrigAudio make it onto Time magazine’s Top 50 Innovations of 2009. When that happened, the friends were “utterly amazed,” Szymczak recalls.

“[We] honestly thought it was a prank from a friend when they first called,” he says. “The year before that, Time had the iPhone as the No. 1 item. It was tough competition, to say the least.”

Going global

OrigAudio speakers have made their way around the world. Shoppers in Australia, Belgium, Denmark, Ecuador, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Saudi Arabia, Russia, the United Kingdom and Vietnam can get the items—and assistance with the products—in their native language. Shoppers can also find the OrigAudio products at retailers like Bed, Bath & Beyond and Zumiez, as well as a kiosk the duo has in New York City.

The uniqueness of the product and the press coverage the company has received attracted the big-name stores, and the retailers soon “demanded a meeting” with them, Szymczak recalls.

“A few short months later, our product was in 1,000 Bed Bath & Beyond and 700 Zumiez stores,” he adds. “The uniqueness of the Rock-IT speaks volumes to purchasing managers, as they always want to have what the competition doesn’t.”

“Differentiate yourself from the competition and have an outside-of-the-box approach to everything”

On the company’s road to success, it’s been important to stand out from the crowd, and that’s always important for any business, Szymczak notes. Luckily, their products are unique, appealing to buyers, and “uncanny and incomparable to anything else in the market.”

Having a user-friendly site has also helped, enabling shoppers to easily find their way around, and encouraging them to come back again and again.

And if you’re thinking about starting an online business, “now is as good a time as any,” Szymczak says. “Web development gets easier and cheaper by the month. We came into it inexperienced and had many hurdles to leap. One recommendation is don’t think small, ever.”

The challenges of online selling

There are challenges to being an online store, though. While the Internet cuts overhead costs for merchants and makes it easy for shoppers to find what they want at any time of the day, it also makes it easier to compare similar products from multiple sellers. This can mean a missed sale if merchants aren’t careful, Szymczak notes.

One way to combat this is to “differentiate yourself from the competition and have an outside-of-the-box approach to everything,” he adds.

It’s also important to thoroughly research items and demand before jumping head first into a business, Szymczak says.

The duo never expected to have as much success as they have had, they admit, adding that their venture has “been nothing short of an amazing ride.”

Szymczak says it was “nuts” to think that on Christmas morning, alone, about 100,000 people were expected to open a gift that came from OrigAudio.

“We are overwhelmingly appreciative of each customer from day one who has made a purchase,” he adds. “They are the reason we are at the level of success we stand at today. We hope that they know our thanks, as they are helping out just a couple of regular 20-something guys and not a huge corporation.

“We feel like we have had some luck on our side for some of the press that we have received,” he continues. “However, at the same time, I believe you can create your own luck by hard work. We truly owe our success directly to our drive, determination and immense amount of work. I do not know anyone who has worked harder and longer on anything than us. Our average work day for the first two years has been 9 a.m. to 3 a.m.”

Visit OrigAudio.

About the author

Olga Munoz
Olga Munoz is editor of TheOnlineSeller.com. In addition to writing news and feature articles about e-commerce, selling trends, online marketing and other topics of interest to online sellers, Olga manages the site's social media efforts. A journalism graduate of Chico State, Olga says her favorite part of being a journalist is learning interesting facts that help put stories into perspective, attending industry events and meeting interesting people "that leave you smiling, even in tough situations." Opinions expressed here may not be shared by The Online Seller and/or its principals.



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