A Race Car Driver, a Finance Wiz and Some Rocket Scientists Joined Forces to Build the Ultimate Phone Protector
In this ongoing series, we are sharing advice, tips and insights from real entrepreneurs who are out there doing business battle on a daily basis. (Answers have been edited and condensed for clarity.)
Who are you and what’s your business?
KC: My name is Kevin Conway and I am the co-founder and CEO of tech protection company, PHOOZY. In June of 2017, we launched the world’s first Thermal Capsule for smartphones that help prevent overheating in the sun and battery drain in the cold conditions while also providing drop protection and float protection. Over the past two years, we have more than 35 SKUs for sold in retailers like REI, Best Buy, Home Depot and Amazon.
JI: I’m Josh Inglis, the COO of PHOOZY. Kevin approached me with the idea and I immediately joined as an advisor. After researching the market and seeing a big need for this type of solution, the business plan almost wrote itself. I joined as a co-founder and COO.Related: Charging Your Phone Overnight: Battery Myths Debunked
What inspired you to create this product/service? What was your "aha moment"?
KC: As an avid wakeboarder and wakesurfer, I was very frustrated with my phone overheating while out on the boat. There is never a good place to put it where it’s still accessible but protected from the sun. I also had lost a phone or two on the bottom of the lake as even the best waterproof cases don’t float. I said there had to be something on the market that would meet my needs. After going to a few different stores and searching online I realized what I needed, a simple koozy for my phone, didn’t exist. So I decided to create the PHOOZY - a phone koozy, if you will.Related: Why Just Having Your Phone Near You Messes With Your Brain
What was your first step from taking this idea from your head and getting it into production?
KC: First step was to see if my wish list was even possible and if so, how do we create patentable IP around our solution. After building several prototypes, the next step was identifying raw goods manufactures that could make the materials that we needed and find factories to actually manufacture the finished product.
JI: Leveraging our network of friends, family and associates that had successfully built their own companies—not only as a sounding board on the company strategy but for initial contacts they had in the consumer product supply chain. We pieced together these initial contacts and build out our own marketing and manufacturing supply chain.
How did your background play into developing this product?
KC: I have spent most of my life as a professional race car driver, having raced in the NASCAR Cup Series and various GT Championships with Lamborghini around the world. In racing, you have to be constantly innovating and on the forefront of emerging technologies. Thermal management is a very big area of focus in motorsports and the aerospace industry. We worked with aerospace engineers and actual rocket scientists to adapt materials developed for space suits to bring PHOOZY to life.
JI: Kevin’s background in professional racing, sponsorships and marketing have him focused on sales and larger projects like product development and creative development. My background as a corporate executive was to bring in more of the operational side of running the business—finances, processes and day-to-day management.Related: This 22-Year-Old Entrepreneur's Business (and Confidence) Got a Major Boost From an Amazing First Customer
What was the hardest lesson to learn?
JI: The hardest lesson to learn was that I had to dramatically change my definition of success. I no longer had corporate-sized marketing budgets, IT budgets and high-caliber teams to produce projects and products at a 99% success rate. Errors were not accepted. However, as a small PHOOZY team with no investors, we had to learn to shoot for an 80% complete rule and not the 99% rule we had learned in corporate and professional racing.
What do you think takes more courage: being a race car driver or an entrepreneur?
KC: Being an entrepreneur without a doubt. In racing, everything is a calculated risk and highly structured. You spend your entire life honing your skills to get to the highest levels so there is a level of familiarity and to an extent, predictability. While there are many variables in racing, I think there are more things beyond your control in the startup world than in racing.
What does the word “entrepreneur” mean to you?
JI: Being resourceful every hour of every day. Leveraging your network, your street smarts and your momentum to accomplish what you thought was the impossible.
Is there a particular quote or saying that you use as personal motivation? What is it and explain how it inspires you.
KC: Courageous, Faithful and True. When my dad passed away, my mom and I were asked to summarize his life in three words (nearly impossible). He was an incredible man and a serial entrepreneur. So to me, those three words inspire me to always be courageous even when it seems impossible, be faithful to your principals, family and those around you and always stay true to your dream, your vision, your goal, yourself.
JI: From the book The 10X Rule: “You must set targets for yourself that are 10X more than what you think you want and then take 10X the action you think is required to get there.” The deeper I get into the entrepreneur world, the more I understand that doing a great job and putting in 40-50 hours a week isn’t going to get us where we want or need to be – a fast-moving and innovative startup that’s building a high-end brand and a brand new category in retail and digital commerce.