In their latest venture, EMBA ’15 buds tackle earbuds and business
If you like keeping up with the latest technology and are prone to misplacing small things, Jennifer Lowthian (EMBA ’15) and Girish Bala (EMBA ’15) have you covered. The two are the brains behind PodPocket, a specially-designed protective case that is moulded to secure wireless Apple AirPods, and attaches to key rings.
The accessory, which has garnered positive reviews from Forbes and Self Magazine, is a life-saver for absent-minded technophiles. Customers from all over the world — including Canada, Japan, the Philippines and the Middle East — have been ordering them online or snatching them up at Best Buy and Verizon stores in the US.
For these two Rotman grads, it’s been an exciting adventure which started with a solid idea, a strong business partnership and help from former classmates.
How it started
The idea behind PodPocket came about one night in September 2016, when Lowthian was watching the Apple Keynote address with her teenage sons. The family was immediately excited about the company’s announcement of their newest accessory — AirPods, wireless Bluetooth earbuds.
“As soon as we saw the product during the keynote, we realized that it was the way of the future. No one would want to be wired to their phones anymore. We were all excited about what was to come.”
Still, when her oldest son asked for a pair of AirPods, Lowthian was hesitant — they were likely to be expensive and easy to lose.
“In creating PodPocket, we used every piece of the curriculum — from brand building to making contracts to marketing.”
-Jennifer Lowthian, EMBA ’15
“We started negotiating about what he could do to keep them safe if he got them,” she explains. “That’s where the idea really started. There was a problem here that could have a solution with real business potential.”
She immediately reached out to her friend and former Executive MBA classmate, Girish Bala, and the two got to work putting together a plan.
Within a few weeks, they set up a meeting with Apple and Bala flew out to gather the specifications for the devices so that they could get started on production. At the same time, the duo was also thinking through their strategy and which markets to tap into.
By December 2016, just a few weeks after Apple’s announcement, PodPocket was open for business. Today, they are a recognized brand name in many markets.
An unexpected journey
The last 18 months have been a bit of a whirlwind for Lowthian and Bala. And it’s a journey that neither might have anticipated, but has involved Rotman along the way.
Lowthian, who was an associate director at Bell Canada, had enrolled in the one-year Executive MBA with the intention of advancing at Bell’s corporate offices. During the program, the idea of building a business from the ground up began to intrigue Lowthian.
“Being able to leverage the network in the Executive MBA was simply amazing.”
-Girish Bala, EMBA ’15
“It became my intent to become an entrepreneur. The direction of my life changed and I knew it was something I wanted to try,” she explains.
And when she and Bala started conceptualizing PodPocket, the business school insights came in handy.
“It was all new and exciting to us. We had to figure out the design, branding, packaging and manufacturing all at once,” says Lowthian. “In creating PodPocket, we used every piece of the curriculum — from brand building to making contracts to marketing.”
For Bala, who is an experienced entrepreneur, it was the diverse class of senior professionals from all backgrounds and industries that truly put PodPocket and his own career goals in focus.
“Being able to leverage the network in the Executive MBA was simply amazing,” says Bala. “The types of top leaders you meet through the program, in terms of expertise, knowledge and experience are second to none.”
“We were able to put together a dream advisory board – senior executives and leaders from our class. These are people we wouldn’t have normally had access to who are giving us invaluable advice and support,” he adds.
Of course, the most valuable business connection he made during the program was Lowthian. PodPocket exists and works because of their complementary skill sets and strong partnership.
“She’s the most organized person you’ll ever meet and I’m big into building relationships,” he explains. “It just goes to show that if you have a business partner you can trust and a strong idea, it’s worth giving the idea a try.”
Written by Rebecca Cheung | More Student Stories »