Junior Clay DeNicola listens to his music through the noise canceling headphones he designed. The customized headphones have sold for $150 or $200 plus tax. (Bjorn Saterbak/TommieMedia)
Jogging on the treadmill to Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” may be hazardous if you’re worried about your earphones falling out, unless you have a product that can handle your fierce workout.
Junior Clay DeNicola launched his custom-made Claves Audio headphones to eliminate the problem of falling earphones about four months ago, and since then, he’s had between 200 and 250 clients, 20 to 30 of which are St. Thomas students.
“We found a niche,” DeNicola said. “All headphones either fall out or fall off your head.”
St. Thomas professor Alec Johnson taught DeNicola in his entrepreneurship 200 course, which includes the “Lemonade Stand” project. He said Claves Audio has a unique position in the headphone market.
“I have advised Clay to seek out a very tight fit between the customization of his product and a market that can strongly benefit from the noise cancellation and custom fit,” Johnson said.
DeNicola said his business is targeted toward active people like runners and people who work out in a gym.
“The main benefit we have is these headphones won’t fall out unless you take them out,” DeNicola said. “There’s no other headphones that do that, so that’s a huge way of how we’ve entered the market.”
To own a pair of headphones, a client makes an appointment to get his or her ear fitted. A mold is taken of the ear, and it takes one to three days until the client receives his or her pair of headphones. DeNicola said clients can fully customize the appearance and color and can add a logo.
Claves Audio has two options of headphones: the standard series has an iPod-like cord with a remote, comes in four different colors and sells for about $150. The performance series comes with an anti-tangle cable and sells for about $200.
Already, the company has accumulated close to $30,000 in inventory and assets. DeNicola said before he cut out the middleman, Claves Audio was sending the molds to a production studio in Florida.
“After a couple of months, we were able to get enough money to actually move it here and buy all of our own machines,” DeNicola said. “So there’s no middle man anymore, which is awesome.”
Junior Eric Ritacco bought a pair of Audio Claves headphones because he is “pretty picky” with his earbuds.
“I tried different kinds, and I didn’t find any that really suited what I like to do with them,” Ritacco said. “I like to work out, I like to listen to them in the car and I like to tune out people.”
The headphones are noise canceling and block out about 26 decibels of sound.
“Compared to any other headphones you’ve ever had, you will hear the difference,” DeNicola said. “The sound quality is just unbelievable.”
Junior Bethany Laiti liked the idea of having a custom pair of headphones and said Claves Audio is worth the cost.
“I always have problems with headphones falling out of my ears or hurting them, but Claves Audio headphones comfortably fit into your ears,” Laiti said. “I know these headphones will last, and that’s why I didn’t mind investing in them.”
However, sophomore Taylor Zimmerman said she wouldn’t want to pay $150 for customized headphones.
“I can go to Best Buy and get some for $20 and they won’t fall out,” Zimmerman said. “I’m not too worried about that.”
Johnson said he admires DeNicola for being a determined entrepreneur, and he predicts Claves Audio will be a successful enterprise.
“It just takes time to identify and build the right market for his product, but I have no doubt he will,” Johnson said. “He works very hard at it.”
Bjorn Saterbak can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.