At the root of every entrepreneurial success story is a good idea. Taking that idea and actually turning it into a business is never as easy as it seems. But some founders seem to have a knack for getting it done—quickly—with favorable results.
Take Westchester resident Linda Connolly, for example. She’s the entrepreneur behind eyn (everything you need), a line of smart phone cases with a hinged hidden storage compartment for essentials like money, credit cards, and driver’s license. Just a few years ago, while Connolly was on a working vacation in Mexico, she was struck with an idea: wouldn’t it be great to be able to just carry your phone, hotel room key, a few bucks, and some lip balm in one case instead of lugging a pocketbook around from pool to bar to meeting rooms, and so on?
She couldn’t get the idea out of her head, and began forming a business around it. After two years of leg work—including finding the right contacts to develop a prototype, securing an overseas manufacturer, and filing for both design and utility patents—she began selling her eyn cases in 2012. In the first year, the fledgling company did $650,000 in sales, and by the following year had ramped up to $1.7 million.
And she’s done it all with zero marketing dollars. With her background in marketing and event planning, Connolly knew just how to spread the word without spending any money. “We sold 5,000 units in the first month, just through Facebook alone,” Connolly says. She also got great exposure for the product by “stalking” Kathie Lee Gifford, she adds. Connolly managed to get Gifford’s address from her PR firm and sent her a case with a pitch. A few days later, Gifford mentioned the case on Today.
“They got such a huge response, they featured the cases again the next day, and they included it as one of their ‘favorite picks’ for the holidays in 2014,” Connolly says. Connolly also worked with a PR specialist who helped her get the eyn cases into gift bags for this year’s White House Correspondents Dinner, as well as gift bags for the Emmys and the MTV Music Awards.
In 2013, Connolly brought on a second employee to help manage the burgeoning operation: Steve Schwartz, the vice president of sales, who is a childhood friend of Connolly’s from Yonkers. Together the two now oversee a growing product line (a new power case is due out this summer), which is sold online at eyn.com and Amazon, and in national retail stores like Brookstone, Hammacher Schlemmer, and others.
Connolly knows the phone case market is crowded with competitors, some of whom have big brand names and deep pockets. But she remains undaunted. “Our differentiator is that it has the compartment that you can close securely shut. And it has space not just for a credit card, you can put receipts and other things in there, more like a purse,” she explains. “Also, we have many customization options, such as monogramming and photos, as well as our co-branding with sports logos.”
While it’s been a quick trip from idea to product, Connolly admits the road hasn’t always been easy. “I think every fledgling business struggles with cash flow,” she notes. “Every time someone gave me advice, it was always about cash flow. One day you feel fine, then [all your cash] is tied up in inventory. We’re getting over that, but it’s still a concern.”
“But I love being my own boss, being creative and coming up with new ideas,” she adds. “It’s so exciting that people really like what we’re doing. I get ‘thank you’ emails from customers and they are my favorite. That’s what keeps us going.”