From the October 2006 issue of Startups

What: Thin, durable film covers to protect digital gadgets
Who: Phillip Chipping of ShieldZone
Where: Salt Lake City
When: Started in 2005

It all started for Phillip Chipping with a new watch. In early 2005, after receiving the watch for Christmas, Chipping began looking for something that would keep his brand-new gift looking brand-new for years to come. "I just didn't want it to get scratched," says Chipping, 30. Luckily, he stumbled upon a urethane film that had originally been developed to protect military helicopter blades. He got a sample and managed to cut out a crude shape to apply over his watch's crystal face. "It worked incredibly well," Chipping says.

That March, Chipping decided to take $5,000 from his tax refund and start his business online, selling pre-cut pieces of the film to outdoor enthusiasts looking to protect their GPS devices. The product, called InvisibleShield, features adhesive on one side that leaves no residue when removed. Using his home computer and relying on his background in design, Chipping made shapes to fit specific devices such as iPods, cell phones and PDAs.

When iPod Nano users began to complain about their device's susceptibility to scratches, Chipping suddenly found his InvisibleShield films in high demand. "Overnight, it just exploded," Chipping says.

His operation quickly moved out of his backyard and took over part of his father's electrical contracting shop. Chipping recruited friends and neighbors to help keep up. The iPod Nano's flaw took his sales to a new level, and the InvisibleShield went from being sold online to being sold in more than 100 retail locations nationwide, as well as in stores in Canada and Europe. With online sales alone projected at more than $2 million this year, Chipping is looking to open his own ShieldZone stores later this year.