Industry: Electronics & Aerospace
Products: Headphones & Speakers
Paul Marshall targets the affordable headphone market by managing a supply-chain that extends to China
As a high school student, Paul Marshall liked to tinker around in his basement. He had help.
“My parents were serial entrepreneurs,” Marshall said. Professors at Brigham Young University, Marshall’s parents loved to create small businesses and taught their son to always be on the lookout for products people needed.
“I liked to run,” Marshall says. “But my ear buds kept falling out of my ear. So I came up with the idea of an ‘ear hugger’ or a plastic frame that would lock them in place. My dad looked at my idea and said it was good. He supported me.”
Marshall’s first business, Earhugger, manufactured that ear bud headphone product for nearly 16 years. In order to better compete, Marshall decided it was time to expand and change everything, including the name. “Earhugger was just a dumb name,” he says. “We came up with Wicked Audio. We also hired an in-house design team to help with branding the new line,” Marshall says.
Today, Wicked Audio fills a lifestyle niche in the $10 - $100 ear bud, head phone, and speaker retail space. “We take the everyday headphones, make them fun, and make them sound good.”
While most of the company’s employees are located in Utah, Wicked Audio also has an office in Taiwan and a continual presence in China, where its components are manufactured.
“Having an office in Taiwan helps with lead times. We also have Wicked Audio employees in the factory watchdogging everything we make to ensure high product quality and worker safety,” Marshall says. “Then everything comes here to Lindon. We have a million pieces here in the warehouse at any given time.”
Wicked Audio products are found in Wal-Mart, Target, Best Buy and many other big box retailers throughout the world. “Our products are found in 22 countries,” Marshall says. Wherever its products are located, once Wicked Audio gains a retail peg space, it latches on.
“We do not come out with big changes every year,” Marshall says. “But we do watch sales, and if something is not selling on the peg, we will change the product out to something we expect will sell better. We hold onto that peg.”
Challenges: Language barriers. When Wicked Audio began manufacturing in China, the company did not have any employees in Asia. “Shipments would arrive and everything would be wrong,” Marshall says. “We opened a local office and were able to gain more accountability with our factories.” Marshall also had a steep learning curve when it came to understanding cultural differences. “In China, they always want to say ‘yes’ when we ask them to do something. I’ve learned you have to ask the right questions, really specific question. You have to talk a long time because they want to make you happy but you want a solid product.”
Opportunities: A tighter price point. Wicked Audio is looking to focus and capture the $20 - $50 price point. “No one is concentrating on this market, so we want to really expand. We have four different lines moving into this price point.”
Needs: Sustainable growth. “We need more designers and perhaps even a bigger space down the road,” Marshall says. “We want to scale what we have now. We have all of the pieces in place. After 20 years, we hope we have it almost figured out.”