Chicago Startup: PortaPocket Has A Safe Place For Your Stuff INTERVIEW

portapocket, joeybra, cellphone holder, nibletzWe recently brought you the story of the innovative JoeyBra. The JoeyBra is obviously for women and it incorporates pockets in the sides of the bras to hold anything from your credit cards and cash to your cell phone. The JoeyBra was recently featured in a Seattle area tech event and has now been featured all over the internet.

It’s actually that story that led us to meeting Kendra Kroll. Kroll is also a woman entrepreneur and her innovative product called PortaPockets add a pocket for you to carry your stuff even if you don’t have pockets. They’re perfect for running, beach days, or just as an extra place to keep your cell phone, cash, and other personal items.

The biggest difference between the PortaPocket and the JoeyBra is the fact that men can use it too. Kroll launched her company, Undercover Solutions in 2007 and has recently added a new bling line. She’s still pretty much self funded. A few years later, and with this recent boom in smartphones, it’s time for PortaPocket to shine, because it is a great idea.

We got a chance to interview Kroll, so let’s see what she says about Under Cover solutions and her invention, the PortaPocket.

What is portapocket?

PortaPocket is a patented strap-onto-the-body carrying case system that makes life easier and brings peace of mind…it’s THE solution for pocket-challenged outfits everywhere.

Wrap the lightweight neoprene PortaPocket band around your thigh, calf, ankle, arm or waist and wear under or over the clothing. It’s detachable, interchangeable and easy to use. So comfy you almost forget it’s there. Pockets attach onto the band and swap out to carry the things you need on any given day. Perfect for small valuables and essentials like ID, cash, cards, keys, cell phones, lipstick, tampons, cameras, passports, insulin pumps, inhalers, epipens, more. Use ‘em solo or even WITH that stylish bag or purse to keep more important items closer. Never risk theft, loss and inconvenience that comes with keeping things apart from your person. Now you can lose the worry… not your stuff! Ideal for working out, going out, travel and every day.

More after the break



Who are the founders and what are their (your) background?

I am the creator of PortaPocket (the brand that is marketed by my company) and the founder of , Undercover Solutions, LLC. I founded US in 2007 after 17+ years in the special events industry and several years as a Realtor in residential real estate. My experience is largely in marketing, sales and now product development. I actually had no intention or desire to invent anything…I simply had an incident that was very embarrassing, and I just could not imagine happening to me again. So I did something about it (accidentally dropped my spare tampon on the free weights room floor at the gym…where it sat for ~10 minutes before I noticed…and I was the only female there at the time… NICE!)

I am a 1987 Graduate of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, with a B.A. in Communications and Psychology. We’re a certified WBE (women’s business enterprise) and were named #40 of the Top 200 Moms in Business, 2010 in a competition held by StartupNation.

Where are you based?

Our HQs are based in Chicago’s NW suburbs, but we ship worldwide!

What is the problem that portapocket solves?

PortaPocket helps you carry the things you need ON your person. No more hunting around for your important items when you need something NOW (eg: phone, epipen, hygiene items), or having the risk of theft, loss and inconvenience which comes when relying on a separate bag or purse. Never lose your phone again, or be victimized by of pickpockets or purse snatchers.

 

What’s your secret sauce what separates you from competitors?

No other product in this category is as versatile and multi-functional as PortaPocket. Our system can be used almost ANYwhere on the body and the fact that it interchanges gives you enormous opportunity to use it for a multitude of activities. You can wear it from going running, to the gym, to the office, to the grocery, to walking the dog, to a night out on the town without skipping a beat AND looking appropriate, stylistically. You can move it from your thigh, to your calf, to your ankle, to your arm. Or wear it on the waist or hip. Same product. Different locations. It’s SUPER comfy and moisture/sweat resistant. NO plastic parts to dig into your skin. All PortaPocket bands can connect at their ends to make a longer length to accommodate ANYbody no matter what size. No need to re-engineer the product for plus sizes. The adaptability’s already built in. PortaPocket pockets also work as protective sleeves for your phone, etc even when not worn ON the body. it’s truly multiple things in one.

 

Have you had any challenges as a woman entrepreneur? Can you give other women entrepreneurs a tip or two?

Getting good help has been a big issue. Buyers don’t want to jump in to bring on products from an unproven company especially as their jobs are at risk in a bad economy. Shelf space is hard to capture, and even if it is…people don’t know what PortaPocket is…and retailers do NOT want to educate the public. They hardly even educate their own employees about what they have. As a result, people often think PortaPocket is just another an ipod holder. TIP: don’t run after retailers. Not only are you selling at wholesale rates here instead of retail…it is a HUGE investment of time and energy to get in. And even if you get in, there’s no guarantee you’ll STAY in. Better to spend your time building a strong ON LINE presence. After all…THAT’s where people are searching/shopping these days. AND you are selling mostly at retail there, hence better margins. If I had to do it over, I’d have spent way more time concentrating on web opportunities sooner, instead.

As to your own startup (2007 still qualifies in our book), what’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced.

See #6 above about placements. And overall… the lack of visibility. And now lack of adequate capital to keep the pipeline full with the new colors and styles we would like to add.

Is this your first startup/product? If not what are your others?

1st one, and determined to “make it” with it. it is WAY too practical and common sense NOT to. Too useful to too many people not to be out in the world.

What’s next for portapocket?

Exciting things! Working with Samantha Goldberg, a well-known celebrity wedding & event planner from the Style network on our sparkly new *bling!* line…watch for new designs to glam up gals outfits while they’re enjoying the events circuit. Thrilled to be entering the European market this summer with a partner based in the Netherlands. New colors in the pipeline. More media, more videos, more exposure. Lots of other things we (shhhh) can’t tell you yet…but when they happen…you’ll KNOW!!

Where can people get a PortaPocket?

besides my trunk (ha!) … www.portapocket.com or amazon, too. there is a list of bricks & mortar (as well as other internet) retailers on our website under “Where to Buy”

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