Latrobe-based cellhelmet to get exposure on 'Shark Tank' TV show
A cellhelmet team had just three minutes for a shot at an investment that would put its product on shelves in stores across the region.
Team members made pitches before, but this time was different.
Now, they were pitching to impress five of the country's wealthiest business experts, and 7 million potential buyers would be watching.
Michael Kane and David Artuso, part owners of Latrobe-based cell phone case manufacturer cellhelmet, will appear on ABC's “Shark Tank” at 9 p.m. Friday.
“That's a really big deal, especially for such a small company,” said Kane, 30. “I've been a huge fan of the show since the first four seasons. It's extremely surreal that it's actually happening.”
A panel of five business experts, known as sharks, hear pitches from businesses and entrepreneurs. In exchange for a cash investment, the entrepreneurs give up a percentage of their companies' equity.
Mark Cuban, a Pittsburgh native and Dallas Mavericks owner, is one of the experts.
The company received an email to gauge its interest in appearing on the show last year, Kane said. Although he and Artuso were skeptical, they jumped at the opportunity to move their product from exclusive online sales to store shelves in the region.It wasn't until they were on a plane headed to Los Angeles in September when it really sunk in. Once on set, they gave a three-minute pitch and answered questions for 45 minutes.
“We were nervous, but prepared,” Kane said.
The group can't reveal whether the sharks decided to invest in their product.
The company started when Kane and Bryan McHenry, 38, invested $700 to sell cell phone cases online. Each time they made a sale, they learned what people want in cases.
Soon, they were crafting their own designs for iPhones. The first model wasn't quite right. It was too clunky for the phone's delicate frame.
“We wanted to do something slim and simple,” Kane said. “We created something from literally nothing.”Childhood friend Artuso, 24, joined the team last year. Other owners are David Eldridge and Justin Goehring.
As a unique feature, the company added damage protection to each case. If a phone breaks inside a cellhelmet case, the company will repair or replace it.That pitch last year won more than 344 investors on Kickstarter, an online fundraising platform for creative projects.
“One thing we realized is a large gap in the market,” Kane said. “There are so many consumers who opt out of $10-a-month insurance, which typically comes with a hefty deductible as well. Here's the ultimate solution, because most consumers purchase a case. Why not purchase one that comes with damage coverage?”
In seven days, the company hit its fundraising goal of $10,000. When the allotted 30 days ended on Kickstarter, it had raised $19,080.
About 7,000 phone cases were sold online in the first year, Kane said. The cases are available at Verizon and other cell phone accessory stores in the Pittsburgh area.
The trio anticipates selling double that in the first quarter this year.
“We started out because we wanted to create an indestructible iPhone case,” he said. “We know what we're doing is solving a problem.”
Amanda Dolasinski is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6220 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Vandals ruin Ligonier Township farmers’ garden
- Tenant charged in fire that destroyed Latrobe apartment house
- Ligonier Township K-9 officer home to recover from deadly collision
- Westmoreland jail warden pushes for full-body scanner to find drugs, contraband
- Ex-Delmont man found dead in Florida
- Unity resident again accused of burglary
- Pair of zoning requests denied by Unity board
- State police to offer car seat inspections in Hempfield
- Scottdale Friends of Library, YMCA Prayer Shawl Ministry to be active
- Theft thwarted by employee at North Huntingdon Wal-Mart
- Cross-filed candidates capture seats on Hempfield board