As a part of my series about “Big Ideas That Might Change The World In The Next Few Years” I had the pleasure of interviewing Kendra Kroll. Kendra is a travel lover and special events professional turned product developer after having an embarrassing ‘whoops!’ moment at the gym with a pants pocket that failed her. Now she’s on a mission to fix clothes pockets that suck, even though she can’t sew to save her life. Kendra graduated from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, many moons ago, and now lives with her husband and teenage daughter in Chicago, where she still occasionally goes out on a limb (literally).
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
For almost all my life I’ve been an avid gym goer, travel lover, and event planner. It’s interesting that my current life’s work is in a space that equally bridges over all of these interests at the same time.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
Many moments come to mind, but I guess the title of ‘most interesting’ would honestly have to be how a mishap with a tampon changed the course of my life.
Now you’ll have to stick around and hear the rest of this to get the goods on THAT 😉
Can you tell us about your “Big Idea That Might Change The World”?
Given we’re fellow humans, I’m sure you know pockets in our clothes are often useless, if they’re even there at all. ;/
Despite the fashion industry’s awareness of the modern generation’s reliance on smartphones, there’s still a dearth of functional pockets in clothing. While it’s a more significant problem for women, it’s a universal issue that crosses gender lines. Indeed all of us are in this boat. Having a solution which helps us more effectively, hands-free carry our small essentials is highly relevant and meaningful in this age of tech addiction!
Regardless of the world being awash in purses & bags, it’s always a risk to leave vital items physically separated from ourselves. I think we all find out that even if the pockets in our clothes fit our items, it’s not enough as we inevitably sit, sweat and bend on our stuff. Plus, things fall out or stick out which can ruin our day ;(
This is what we’re here to resolve. We have a simple solution that lets you wear whatever you want, and allows you to put pockets on yourSELF, instead. No sewing needed.
Our mission is to make life easier by freeing ourselves from micromanaging outfits or babysitting bags. Our patented PortaPocket’s a game-changer that lets us go about our business with peace of mind and keeps our essentials handy whether at the office, gym, or black tie affair.
How do you think this will change the world?
We offer a better way for people to go about their day, by creating a mechanism for them to always have their small, important items ON themselves during their daily lives.
Our modern-day spinoff of the old-fashioned tie-on pockets that women relied on in the 17th to 19th centuries is much comfier than those antiquities and is super simple to use. It’s rather like a money belt, arm band, leg wallet, neck safe and more… all in one! Truly the only 100% fully modular, detachable, interchangeable wearable system in its category. It works almost ANYwhere and fits everyBODY.
From our years of experience, we know that PortaPocket has an impact and can improve the lives of an enormous amount of people. For example:
• Travelers have the confidence to avoid theft & outwit pickpockets & bag snatchers
• Theme & water park goers enjoy fun-filled experiences without their cell phones, wallets & keys flying off coasters, nor deal with the inconvenience of repeatedly visiting lockers
• People with diabetes conveniently wear their insulin pumps, no matter their outfits
• Prom-goers, brides/maids & gals in formalwear have peace of mind and need not resort to bras & underclothes as sweaty, make-shift carry cases
• Theater folks, speakers, news people & musicians appreciate a more effective means to wear their mic packs
We’ve been gratified to serve these and so many other types of people including walkers & dog walkers, joggers & runners, bicyclists & motorcyclists, horseback riders & ATVers, rock climbers & hikers, dancers, cruise fans, blind folks, wheelchair users, people on crutches, the elderly, naturists and more.
It seriously works and is massively useful. Truly THE solution for the pockets that don’t work in your clothes.
Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this idea? Can you tell us that story?
Ha, yes! OK, so here’s that embarrassing story that started this whole odyssey.
I was working out at the gym in July of 2007. During a set of flat bench flyes, my (spare) tampon decided to roll out (of my useless pants pocket) and skitter across the room. It landed in the middle of the free weights area and sat there for 10 min before I noticed…and I was the only female there at the time. Nice! ;/ Needless to say, I turned three shades of red, got mad, and decided to fix the problem of pockets that don’t work. Necessity truly IS the Mother.
What do you need to lead this idea to widespread adoption?
Because I don’t think anyone can say the problem of clothes pocket-fail isn’t an issue (people tweet daily about cells falling out of their pockets …whether onto the ground, floor, or into the toilet), I think our biggest challenge continues to be the lack of awareness. Our concept itself isn’t exactly new. But it IS a significant modification of past inventions, with an update in materials and functional usage.
Also, it’s vital for people to recognize how ours is a different animal within the category. There are plenty of modified fanny pack type products that are worn around the waist. Or the standard stock armband. But all of the others only work in one way and on one part of the body. The key is PortaPocket’s 100% modularity and interchangeability. Having bands that connect to extend their length and pocket sizes and styles that one can swap out …even wear our larger pockets on a belt or scarf to suit one’s daily needs …that is entirely different from all the competition.
To become more of a known, go-to solution for this issue, we need a vast uptick in our web traffic. I’d like to see several thousand web visitors a day on our site, compared to the numbers we typically show now. It’d also be imperative to be more readily found on Amazon.
Another way to best go Mainstream is to be able to partner with another product-based company serving a similar audience. A company who can see our value-add for their present sphere, but one who’d not cannibalize their existing sales opportunities by adding our product line to their assortment. While we’ve made efforts to join in with several relevant name-brand organizations, we realize all companies have their agendas, so we haven’t found the right fit yet, to date.
However, with any luck, this will soon change as I’ve recently become aware of some companies appealing to the disabled market to accommodate the needs of people with physical challenges. We would be a resource for these kinds of niches.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
• It will ALWAYS take way longer than you think (in this now for almost 12 yrs)
• The big Media Hit will help, but not vault you to the stars (e.g., our TODAY show feature was a rocket ship ride, but ultimately you go back to steady state)
• Don’t count on your family (or extended family) to believe in (&/or support) your idea (many in my family tree still think I’m crazy and don’t even want to ever talk about it. Rather insulting, but there it is…;/ )
• Don’t overextend simultaneously into too many markets, no matter how tempting (jack of all trades = master of none. People won’t know you’re there if you’re scratching the surface on too many options at the same time)
• At the start, ALWAYS work with small batch runs even if more cost-effective to do larger volumes (and I have 15K worth of boxes decorating my basement as a cautionary tale. Lol! Tweaks always happen, things change, and adjustments must be made. Don’t overdo your situation so you won’t end up in a like circumstance)
The future of work is a common theme. What can one do to “future proof” their career?
Although there’s never a guarantee of how life will unfold here on Earth, I’d say the best strategy is to focus on a field that has ‘legs’ and longevity. Concentrate on an area where humans’ needs (for what you do or what you have) are not going away. Or at least not going away anytime soon!
Which principles or philosophies have guided your life? Your career?
Always treat others the way you’d want to be treated. There are no shortcuts to hard work. Life is never a straight line, but a series of hurdles one must go through. Happiness is a state of mind more than anything else. Keep reading and learning no matter your age. Also, it’s always better to do the right thing, even if it costs you more up front. And if you are getting up in the morning and not excited about what you’re working on, you’re in the wrong job.
Can you share with our readers what you think are the most important “success habits” or “success mindsets”?
It’s wise to listen to other people’s advice and ideas, even if you don’t always agree. That doesn’t mean you have to adopt/implement these ideas, but it’s helpful to keep an open mind. Fresh perspectives on your subject might open your eyes to things you hadn’t considered since different people look at a problem differently.
Also, keep on top of current events as they may affect you in ways you never expected. And it’s always good to remember that people base their decisions on emotions (not logic) so keep that in mind when crafting your messaging. Oh, and never use phone service automatons that don’t have a human answering your calls. People hate robots.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
We’d love for you to join us on this unending journey J:
· Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PortaPocket
· Twitter: https://twitter.com/PortaPocketGal
· Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/portapocket/
· Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/portapocket/
· YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/PortaPocketGal
· LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kendrakroll/