University alums are coming out of their Ann Arbor shell.
TurtleCell, an Ann Arbor-based company that specializes in developing phone cases and headphones, will be releasing their original iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus cases to several national retail stores this July.
According to University alum Jeremy Lindlbauer, the company’s co-founder and director of brand and marketing, TurtleCell was founded on the idea of creating iPhone cases that have retractable headphones.
“We are a mobile accessories company, and our tagline is ‘untangle your life,’ ” Lindlbauer said. “Our goal and our mission is to launch products that simplify the lives of students and young professionals, especially around campus.”
TurtleCell’s history began at the University. According to the company’s website, the design for the iPhone cases was conceptualized when TurtleCell president Paul Schrems, who is a University alum, was walking to class while trying to untangle his headphones. Now, two and a half years later, the TurtleCell team is composed of seven members, with their offices located in Kerrytown.
Five members of the team are recent University graduates, and the other two members are graduates of Michigan State University and Central Michigan University.
Lindlbauer said TurtleCell phone cases were first introduced to the market through entrepreneurship competitions.
“We did some small business pitch competitions, like the 1000 Pitches competition here at the University,” Lindlbauer said. “Then we did some bigger competitions locally, like Accelerate Michigan, which is one of the biggest competitions in the state of Michigan.”
In 2014, TurtleCell’s phone case designs reached the final round at Accelerate Michigan, an international business competition that links aspiring entrepreneurs with national and international investors. The team earned a $20,000 grant from the state of Michigan after earning the People’s Choice award at the competition.
TurtleCell then joined the University’s TechArb, a student startup accelerator that aids students with launching their business ideas. Shortly after, the company moved to Ann Arbor SPARK, an entrepreneurial support center serving the Ann Arbor region.
“We got some additional grant money, started to focus on the business of it, and we were prototyping different solutions,” Lindlbauer said. “In our time at Ann Arbor SPARK, we focused on building up a team, we raised small investments and now we are headquartered here in our own office in Ann Arbor, in Kerrytown.”
The company, which has already released cases for the iPhone 5 and iPhone 5s in local Verizon stores, has recently paired with a distributing company in Auburn Hills. The company plans to start distributing nationally and globally with their upcoming line of new cases.
“They’ve been responsible for inserting us into local retail outlets and when we have a full-scale launch for the iPhone 6 cases, we are expecting to be available nationally in retail stores,” Lindlbauer said.
Lindlbauer said the company is launching a pilot program to solicit feedback on their product from the Ann Arbor community before the actual release of the iPhone cases.
“For $10, people can have our iPhone 6 case, which will retail at $50, and they can be basically a pilot tester and give us feedback,” Lindlbauer said. “We encourage people to check that out.”
Lindlbauer said the company is continuing to expand their ideas and designs for new phone cases and accessories.
“The next step beyond that is we’re launching another case that will have both the full length retractable headphones and a battery full of charge,” Lindlbauer said. “That product is planned to launch spring of 2016 and that’s really where we’re planning to springboard into having the full functionality that students are requesting in terms of a phone case.”
Lindlbauer also said the team believes they serve as testament to the resources that are available to students at the University.
“We ended up receiving about $100,000 worth of grants and loans through the state of Michigan that have allowed us to really grow,” Lindlbauer said. “I think that the big testament is to the resources that are at disposal and students should really try to utilize them. There’s so much that is available to start a company.”
Lindlbauer said the TurtleCell team wants to encourage students and others to visit their Kerrytown office and local Verizon stores.
“The biggest thing is that we’re really hoping that people will stop by the local Verizon stores, and continue to spread the word for TurtleCell so that we can continue to grow and make a real splash in the Ann Arbor area,” Lindlbauer said.