February 11 was national inventors day, so we thought we'd profile an ONU alumnus who invented a modern wallet. Now he’s building a business around it.
After winning Ohio Northern University’s version of the hit television show Shark Tank as a senior, Jeremiah Skow, BSBA ’14, is setting his sights on the real thing.
In 2013, Skow won first place at the ONU Polar Pitch Competition for his idea for a credit card-ejecting wallet. In addition to a $1,000 prize, he received support from then-dean of the Dicke College of Business Administration Dr. James Fenton to patent his invention, and Spectre Wallets was born. Next month, Skow plans to launch phase two of his business with the ultimate goal of $150,000 in sales and an appearance on the actual Shark Tank by the end of next year.
Skow’s invention stemmed from a complaint he had about his own wallet. Why, he wondered, did he carry around all these cards he didn’t need or even use? It seemed to him that a traditional wallet, with all its credit card slots and pockets, compelled him to fill it with things he didn’t need.
“I never pictured myself being an inventor, or starting my own business, or creating my own product. But I started wondering why there wasn’t a wallet that would just make life simple. And so I came up with a concept for a wallet designed around what I really needed it to do: access the credit card I use most.”
The Spectre Wallet does that through a proprietary spring-loaded credit card holder that ejects the card from the leather and metal wallet. An exterior pocket can hold cash and an ID, resulting in a slimmer, more convenient and RDIF-protected wallet that is perfectly suited to the way consumers pay for things today.
But Skow learned that a good idea doesn’t necessarily make a good product. After successfully completing a small crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter, Skow was excited to bring his invention to market. However, manufacturing and supply-chain challenges hindered the Spectre Wallet from moving forward as he’d hoped.
“Once I had some capital squared away, I lined up all my manufacturers, got set up and hit the ‘go button’ to begin producing my product,” says Skow. “And that’s when I started to hit what felt like every single brick wall known to mankind.”
The die he ordered to hold the credit card, literally the most important component, was manufactured incorrectly. His laser cutter was running five weeks behind schedule. And, once he did get the parts and began to assemble the wallets, he noticed more pieces not fitting together.
“It was a nightmare,” he says.
The production run was so wrought with problems, that Skow exhausted all of his funds just to meet his obligations to the customers who supported the Kickstarter campaign.
“I felt like a complete failure. I was depressed. I didn’t want to do anything. I sat there for a couple of months and just doubted myself. I thought I was done at that point, honestly,” he says.
But Skow wasn’t done, and Spectre Wallets was far from dead. After a couple months of not thinking of his fledgling company, thoughts started creeping back into his head. He started having trouble sleeping. He spoke with his family about what was eating him up inside.
“What I came to realize was that I didn’t put my best foot forward,” he says. “I think I’ve figured out what I’ve done wrong and what I need to do to make it work. So for the past year, I’ve been working on getting a better production run this time.”
One of Skow’s most difficult realizations is how much his idealism hurt him. From the start, the Spectre Wallets were going to be produced domestically. It was non-negotiable. And because he felt so strongly about sourcing materials locally, manufacturing it here in Ohio, and proudly saying his wallets are “made in the U.S.A.,” he deprived his company of negotiating leverage. As he began to prepare for a second production run, he put all options on the table.
“I’m finally going full-scale in March. I’m not scared or nervous anymore. I’m 100 percent confident in what I’ve created,” he says. “Every time I take this product out to places and use it, someone is just blown away by it and wants to know where they can get one. I can’t say it hasn’t been painful at times, but through that pain I’ve gained so much confidence in what this product has become and what this business has become. I can’t wait to take the next step.”
To learn more about the Spectre Wallet, visit www.spectrewallets.com.