Widget Wah, an iPhone case company started last year by two St. Thomas graduates, has now sold more than 15,000 cases nationally.
Over the past five months, Widget Wah gained clients throughout the U.S. and Canada, including the American Hockey League and the Central Hockey League. 2013 alumnus Mike Orth, Widget Wah’s driving force, designs the cases.
Orth said signing deals with national hockey organizations solidified his decision to turn the one-time entrepreneurship class project into a full time career.
“I think that the point where I realized that this company was really going to take off and that I could actually make it into a full time job, at least for myself, was when we got the deal with the Central Hockey League,” Orth said. “That was so huge.”
Widget Wah has also partnered with several other MIAC and Division III schools throughout the nation as well as the North American Soccer League.
Orth said the diligence and creativity involved in creating each client’s case sets Widget Wah! apart from other iPhone case companies.
“We won’t just go to our clients and take their logo and slap it on a case and try to sell it,” Orth said. “We want to put a lot of effort into a good design. For example, we just did a design for the University of Portland where we took their school’s fight song and incorporated that into a case.”
Orth co-created Widget Wah with 2013 alumnus Collin Kearney, but Kearney left the company to accept a supply chain analyst position with Ascension Health in Baltimore, Md.
“Leaving Widget Wah was definitely a tough decision,” Kearney said. “But I felt confident that Mike would stick with our vision for the company from the beginning, and he has done so. It baffles me still that Mike and I started a company from nothing, and it has grown into an operating business that manufactures products that many people nationwide benefit from.”
Orth now has two staff members. Looking into Widget Wah’s future, Orth said there may be job opportunities for St. Thomas students.
“I definitely want St. Thomas students and alumni to be a big part of this company as we expand both as interns and employees,” Orth said.
Entrepreneurship professor Alec Johnson said this kind of success is not uncommon in the St. Thomas community.
“We just actually completed a survey for St. Thomas alumni for the past 10 years, and we’ve had a lot of big success stories come out of our program,” Johnson said. “I guess I’d say that I’m not too surprised that they’re having success.”
Johnson said the reason St. Thomas entrepreneurship students tend to experience success is because of the environment the program fosters.
“We give a lot of support and create a great community for people,” Johnson said. “For any entrepreneur, to have a community of support, they can actually hold and craft to develop their idea into a sustainable business, if you’re operating in a vacuum, that’s really hard to do.”
Sophomore Krzysztof Walczak said he thinks the cases are high quality.
“I like the craftiness,” Walczak said. “I feel like their cases are simple, clean and they have what I need to have.”
Orth said Widget Wah’s future looks bright.
“Every single week it just keeps picking up more speed,” Orth said. “Every week it’s exciting to see what deal we’ll get.”
Kayla Bengtson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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