What do you do when you're an innovative 21-year-old from a family of entrepreneurs? You come up with a great idea for protecting high-priced gadgets such as smartphones. That's what Arianna Russell, founder of Bodacious Cases LLC, did. The Band-It Case for the iPhone 4 and 4S, is a water-resistant, two-piece, snap-together case that comes with an interchangeable colored band for a stylish look. Consumers also have the option of being able to purchase additional bands for multiple case combinations.
"Today people have some of the most important details of their lives on their smartphones - everything from names, addresses and phone numbers to personal calendars to treasured photos and videos. It's like having your life in your pocket!" Russell commented. "With the Band-It cases and bands you can keep all that safe, in style."
Russell, who lives in Ozark, MO, founded her company three years ago on July 4th - the day she came up with the idea of the case after she thought she'd dropped her iPhone while sitting in a hot tub at a family gathering. It turns out her iPhone was on dry land but the idea for Bodacious Cases was born anyway. She launched the actual product about eight weeks ago.
From concept to commercialization
"The process of designing the produce and getting it to market was so intense," Russell told PlasticsToday. "People don't realize that it takes so long to develop something like this. There are so many steps that I'm actually in the process of writing a book on how to get an idea to market because I've had so many people ask me how it's done."
The case is injection molded from polycarbonate and the bands are a thermoplastic elastomer. The biggest challenge for Russell, who knew nothing about plastics, was finding someone to design the case and band, and then choosing a moldmaker and molder.
"The first design firm I called was a big one in Kansas City and when I told them who I was they said they only do business with big companies, not little people like me," Russell explained. "I finally found a part designer who would work with me. Then I got literally dozens of quotes from mold makers and molders. I walked through dozens of manufacturing plants here locally in Missouri and other places throughout the U.S.A. and met with dozens of people. In the end, I stayed local, here in Missouri."
Most people weren't very encouraging to Russell in her venture. She said she had literally "hundreds of people" tell her what she wanted to do with Bodacious Cases couldn't be done. A varsity basketball player in high school, she started college, because she had a coach tell her that if she didn't go to college she'd never make anything of herself. However, after one semester in college playing basketball with severe shin splints and trying to go to a game through a tornado and hail storm, "That was a sign that I needed to quit," she said, "and take on the full-time challenge of getting Bodacious Cases into the market."
"Sometimes it's not all about the money"
Russell believes with all her heart in "Made in the U.S.A." which is why she uses a local molder and moldmaker rather than taking her product to China. She admits it might have been cheaper to have her cases made in China, she just won't go there. "I strongly believe in keeping every product I make made here in the U.S.A.," she said. "Does it mean less profit for me and my company? Of course. But sometimes it's not all about the money. Of course I have to have money to keep my company above water, but I prefer to help my fellow Americans out versus sending something over to a country that has a ton of work already."
That also means we won't be seeing Russell and her Bodacious Cases on "Shark Tank" anytime soon. "No way," she stated emphatically. "The first thing they want you to do is make your product in China and I won't do that!"
Bodacious Cases come in two styles, one with a credit card slot that can hold two credit/debit cards and an I.D. or eight standard business cards, and one without. Both case styles are available in five colors: black, red, white, blue or pink. The interchangeable bands also come in two styles, one with port coverings for additional protection and one without. The bands are offered in 10 colors - black, red, white, blue, dark blue, green, hot pink, orange, gray and purple. "The bands give user the option of changing the look of their cases in a matter of seconds without the expense of multiple cases," Russell said.
A true entrepreneur with entrepreneurial blood running through her veins, Russell started her first company when she was a junior in high school. She needed a job that allowed her to have her own hours so she could attend all her basketball practices. The only way to do that was work for herself, so she started Superior Auto Detailing, getting contracts from local car dealers to detail cars on their lots. From just herself in 2005 she grew that company to a six-person operation in just two years. She still has that business which is being run by a business associate.
Her parents are also entrepreneurs. They have a company called Wicker Fixers that repairs Wicker furniture and does chair caning. They also publish an antiquing guide called "Antiquing We Go!" Russell's parents have been her primary financial backers for the Bodacious Cases. "My parents backed me 100%," said Russell. "My parents are the best and I owe everything that I know to them. They are what all Americans should be like. If I can half as good as they are I'll be happy."