Atlanta, Georgia-based entrepreneur Keith Hall was inspired to the SlimClip iPhone case after failing to find a particular type of iPhone 5 case he was looking for. He figured that if he was having trouble finding such a case that other people were likely experiencing the same thing. Dissatisfied with what was available in the marketplace, Keith decided to make the case himself. Today, his company has expanded into two product line up with the introduction of the minimal LuxBox case for the iPhone.
How did you get started? What was your motivation?
I have always had a passion for creativity, to create things out of nothing. I had a business venture before and brought on a bunch of partners to do some modern homes. It burst right as we were going to start getting through the loan process. It was emotionally devastating at the time but ended up being a blessing that it didn’t work out.
The SlimClip case, which is our flagship product, our first product out of Wonderful Things Factory was the initial business idea. It was something that I actually thought already existed. When the iPhone 5 came out I had in my mind exactly what I was looking for. I started looking around, and it did not exist, which was shocking to me at the time. That was right around the time that Kickstarter was starting to get really popular and I thought, “Well, I might as well just go ahead and develop this, maybe start a Kickstarter project.” Certainly, if I wanted it, I couldn’t be the only one. I didn’t even know exactly how to go about it as far as getting a product developed. I did have some experience with product development with the real estate venture, and I knew that you needed to really test the market to find out whether it’s even something that’s wanted before you go ahead and invest too much time and money or energy in it.
That’s one of the reasons why the crowdfunding campaign was attractive to me. [I] started looking around for an industrial engineer, went on a lot of freelance sites, interviewed people on there, made a few phone calls. I was really blessed that I did find someone who was actually an engineer in China and I was blessed that he was an honest person who could help me out. We started developing and went through prototype after prototype. We were able to get some 3D models made. We went through at least 10 designs before we got to the real idea of how it would work, and then we went forward and got a beta project done.
I knew the project product was good because we did get some preorders out of the Kickstarter thing. It may have actually met its goal because I changed the video somewhere, like, a few days into it and it started to really pick up, but I was so nervous that it was going to flop that I just went ahead and canceled it. I think I had, at that point, enough validation to know that it was a good idea, and I started to go forward with it. I sent it out to a bunch of influencers but I didn’t really strongly market it at the time. [We] got some good feedback, [and] I was actually able to give it to a bunch of buyers, like the Target buyer of iPhone cases as well as an Apple buyer, and got good conversations with them regarding feedback. From that feedback, [we] went back to make a version two of the product and to try and correct those things. The version three that we’re working on right now is something that basically addresses all the issues. So, that’s how we got started in general.
Describe how it felt to launch. How did it feel to get paid for your work for the first time?
I considered a launch point in July 2014 when version two of the SlimClip case was completed. We actually opened up an online store officially and tried to really start marketing it. At that point, we had developed a marketing plan of bringing in influencers for the SlimClip case, which are athletes, fitness influencers, and the like. We’d already started working on the Lux Box cases as well and developing that. It felt great. Even though we hadn’t really gotten anywhere as far as revenue is concerned, getting influencers and people giving us good feedback about the product, things like that, it was awesome. Just a year ago, there was nothing. It was just, literally, like a poof of ideas, some smoke coming from the brain. Just to see that people would actually pay for your idea that you turned into physical reality, it’s [a] pretty good feeling.
What’s the biggest obstacle you’ve overcome? How did you do it?
The biggest — the initial — obstacle I had to overcome was just . . . uncertainty. Is all this work and effort and time and energy and money investment going to be worth it in the end? That’s always the question. There’s so much sacrifice from your family’s perspective, from a time perspective, from a money perspective. When you have a startup, it’s just so much sacrifice.
You look at what you’re doing — the actual physical product, which, for us, is iPhone cases and a bunch of other mobile accessories, t-shirts and hats, and things of that nature [and wonder,] is it really worth it? You look at it and it’s such a benign kind of thing in the grand scheme of the world. However, what you are doing and building ultimately is much more than a physical product. It’s employment for other people, [an] opportunity for other people. Right now, we have two employees. I [also] have some business partners [who will] ultimately be fully employed by Wonderful Things Factory, at some point. We have influencers who are supplementing their income with our products and all of that is something that is beneficial to other people and becomes greater than the individual products and even greater than the people who started it or are running it. Focusing on that big picture, where we want to go, is how we’ve been overcoming obstacles of uncertainty.
To read Keith’s full Journey features, get your copy of issue zero here.
Photos courtesy of Keith Hall