Read More About OrigAudio
OrigAudio capitalizes on an expanding product category to become the fastest-growing supplier in the industry.
Just four years ago, a couple of young, ambitious, music-loving friends founded OrigAudio (asi/75254), a portable audio manufacturing company, in a Chicago garage. In their first full year in 2010, they attained $210,000 in sales; in 2012, they reached $2 million.
Co-founder Mike Szymczak and his business partner had experience in marketing before their establishment of OrigAudio and agreed that the products and services they planned to offer would be a perfect fit for the promotional industry. So in January 2010, they became members of ASI. Soon enough, the pair realized how much they had to learn about their new role as a promotional supplier. "At our first show, we didn't even know about coded pricing," says Szymczak. "We were young, so we didn't know the intricacies of the industry. I was literally Googling ‘coded pricing' in the corner of the booth."
Their perseverance in learning the ins and outs of the industry paid off; shortly after becoming ASI members, Szymczak, his partner and their five employees ditched the garage and relocated to Costa Mesa, CA. There, they set up shop in a 1,500-square-foot location, and then promptly grew out of that, too. They're now in a 4,000-square-foot facility and employ 13 people.
The team continues to target the promo industry aggressively and offers a variety of diverse portable audio options, including foldable speakers made of recyclable eco-friendly card stock and the new Rock-It 3.0 that uses vibration technology to turn virtually any item, including tissue boxes and plastic cups, into a speaker.
"We're in retail too, but our products are great for promotions because they're highly customized and we require no minimums and no set-up fees," says Szymczak. "We release three to four products a year, and we really take customer feedback to heart. Now that people want more Bluetooth, we'll be releasing Bluetooth versions of our hot sellers."
Since their humble beginnings in a Chicago garage, Szymczak and his business partner have held themselves to the same high standards for both products and service. "The growth's just been exponential, and that's pretty amazing for such a small shop," says Szymczak. "We set the bar extra high, and we keep dangling that carrot in front of ourselves. If you don't set goals, you'll plateau. It's also the nature of this industry. Customers are always asking for more, for what's new, and they want it yesterday. The sky's the limit, all the time."
Over the past several years, OrigAudio has been able to capitalize on the significant press it has received – from an appearance during the second season of ABC's Shark Tank, to articles in Entrepreneur and Time magazines, including a ranking on the latter's "Top 50 Inventions of 2009" list.
"We like to do things that are the opposite of how everyone else is doing it," says Szymczak. "We have a different mind-set. So we have no minimums, no art fees, no set-up fees, cheap spec samples and free virtuals. We also offer 10-day turn time domestically. And we do digital printing, so we offer full-color images."
These perks of working with OrigAudio, says Szymczak, keep customers coming back for more. "It also helps that we have a fun product that's cool and unique," he says. "And people will use it and show it off; it's not something stuffed into a desk drawer."
Having a unique product certainly drives growth, though it's not the only factor. Customers come first, and that goes for any business, says Szymczak. When fostering client relations, suppliers should "put on the distributor's shoes, have an out-of-body experience and try to figure out how they picture you," he says. "Work on whatever needs to be improved, whether it's the product selection, order process or something else. You have to make customers happy. It all comes down to that." Especially in this industry, he adds, where customer service is king and to survive, vendors must meet clients' "super-high expectations."
In fact, says Szymczak, the best way to truly foster and strengthen client relationships is to overcommunicate. "Make sure they know every detail of their order," he explains. "Be sure that they know the status of everything. Then when it's finished, ask them what they think and if you can do anything further for them. We've just brought on several more people expressly for maintaining this high level of communication."
While Szymczak wishes he could name the business manual that led to OrigAudio's success, he says most of what he learned came about through baptism-by-fire experiences, like searching online for industry terms at his first trade show.
"A lot of owning your own business you learn on the fly, because you have to," he says. "There are no perfect guidebooks, because there are so many unknowns. What you can make sure of is your own very high standards and how much you stick to them. We've stuck to ours and we've seen huge growth."