Caitie Gehlhausen - Socket Lock-It™

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This is a podcast episode titled, Caitie Gehlhausen - Socket Lock-It™. The summary for this episode is: <p>On today's episode of From the Basement Up, we sit down with Founder &amp; CEO of Socket Lock-It™, Caitie Gehlhausen.&nbsp;</p><p><br></p><p>Caitie is an inventor, college graduate, retired D1 athlete, a gen Z-er, a serial entrepreneur, and quite a successful businesswoman already in her first few years of founding and operating her own business. Caitie’s technique of observation gave her the perfect idea, timing, and tone for how she was going to get herself as an inventor (as we like to say) out of the basement.&nbsp;</p><p><br></p><p>After having the time to see what her friends and family were missing, she took to her teachers and those around her to level up her idea, hit the ground running, and eventually make her way into the world’s largest retailer: Walmart. She isn’t stopping anytime soon, and today we get to hear how she’s gotten so far in her career already, where she plans to go, and what she’s learned along the way.</p>

Michelle Brandriss: Hello, hello. Thank you for joining us today on From The Basement Up. I have Caitie Gehlhausen with us today, and she is a young inventor and entrepreneur. It was during her first year in college that Caitie came up with a concept and grew that seed of an idea into a product that received a patent. She manufactured this product and then sold it in the largest retail chain in the country. So as you can guess, this is incredible, incredible for anyone, very impressive. Yet, Caitie did this in college, so it was her first year in college and she did it at such a young age. So I can't wait to hear from her and hear her story. So I'm excited to introduce her to you. Welcome, Caitie.

Caitie Gehlhausen: Hello. Thank you for having me. I'm so excited to be talking with you.

Michelle Brandriss: Yes, and absolutely. Emily is here with us and it was Emily that told me about Caitie. And I'm like, what? I just immediately wanted to meet Caitie and hear her story. I was utterly fascinated by this. You had an idea and you made it happen, but what a fantastic accomplishment, and then to be able to do this your first year in college, that just blew my mind. So I would love it, if you could give the listener a brief background of the product you developed and how you thought of it.

Caitie Gehlhausen: Yes, I would love to. So I actually created Socket Lock- It my freshman year of college in 2018, when I was noticing that all my friends and classmates had either a cell phone wallet on their cell phone or a phone grip, but never both at the same time. I actually had a friend who had received a phone grip for Christmas and was forced to take off her phone wallet, but she still refused to carry around a purse or a wallet anywhere she went. So she just decided to carry all of her necessities, like her student ID, her license, her credit card in her pocket instead and just went about her day. Obviously you can see where this is going.

Michelle Brandriss: Yes.

Caitie Gehlhausen: She went about her day and lost all of her essentials, misplaced them. She told me about it and I was like," Why the heck do you even take it off in the first place? Why do you take off your cardholder?" She had said she had tried different combinations to allow her to use both. She had tried super gluing it on, hot gluing it and I had heard this from several other of my friends too, that they tried to make it work with both products and it just simply didn't work. I was really curious about this and went to the internet, just like any Gen Z- er would do and went and scoured the internet to see if there was a product that allowed you to combine the two. And to my surprise, there was nothing out there. That's when I was like," This is my million dollar idea." I am an entrepreneurship major. I've been trying to search and wait for my big idea and I was like," I'm going to run with this." I know that there's a need, I see it in my own life and I know that there's got to be hundreds of thousands of millions of people who have this problem where they can't use both products at the same time. That's how Socket Lock- It was born.

Michelle Brandriss: I love it. Okay. So this is great. I loved how you referred to yourself as a Gen Z- er. I love that you are an entrepreneur major. That's cool.

Emily Flanigan: In her a LinkedIn bio, it says serial entrepreneur. I was excited to tell you.

Michelle Brandriss: Okay. So this wasn't just the only idea then. Of course, we have to get into more detail, but what are some of your other ideas?

Caitie Gehlhausen: Oh my gosh, I have a million ideas, I wish I had time in the day to pursue them all. But I'm actually about to launch, we're probably going to launch about second or third quarter of 2022 with a pet product that I also invented in college, it's going through the patenting process right now. We're just finalizing our supply chain and cost and pricing right now, but it's a really exciting product. It's an alternative to the traditional pet cone. Yeah, that's a whole rabbit hole in itself, I could go into with that product, but we're hopefully going to be able to leverage our already established retail relationships since it's also a consumer product and hopefully get that into some retailers as well.

Michelle Brandriss: Holy smokes. Okay. Impressive. I have to ask, so I want a little history about you, are your parents inventors or entrepreneurs, or is this just something that's in you that you've always had this?

Caitie Gehlhausen: Yes. So my parents actually met in a startup setting. So my dad has always been very entrepreneurial. He ended up leaving his corporate job and eventually went on to start a company with his brother that they've been now running for 35 years together.

Michelle Brandriss: That's so cute.

Caitie Gehlhausen: Yeah. Yeah. It's a fire and environmental safety products company. So they do a lot of R& D and more on the government side and they work in nuclear and things. So not as quite as sexy as Socket Lock- It or anything, but yeah, they have invented over 20 products themselves. So I always had that entrepreneurial mindset from that perspective. And then my mom, they had originally met in a startup setting, but she went on to be in sales for 30 years. So I feel sales is a segue into entrepreneurship, you're still building out your book of business and things like that and still your own boss. So she was in that space mindset too, I guess, of entrepreneurship and she always really encouraged me to get into entrepreneurship as my major for college. So they both were really encouraging for that as I entered school. Yeah, that's what inspired it from the beginning.

Michelle Brandriss: That's amazing.

Emily Flanigan: It's in your blood.

Michelle Brandriss: Yes.

Caitie Gehlhausen: Yeah.

Michelle Brandriss: Well, I wanted to also ask, I was just curious, you know how that you have product development majors. Did you consider that at all too? Or is it a totally different thing? Is that more just designing?

Caitie Gehlhausen: Yeah. We didn't have something like a product development major. We had an engineering program, which occasionally we would intermingle with the engineering department and the entrepreneurs, but I actually double majored as entrepreneurship and finance. I don't know what I was thinking with finance, I'm not a finance person. I got good grades, but I am definitely more on the creative side. I think I will probably with every business that I start always be the visionary and the opportunity seeker, not so much the logistical side of the business.

Michelle Brandriss: But you know what? You need that background. You do.

Caitie Gehlhausen: Right.

Michelle Brandriss: It helps ground you, it helps you move forward and see the long game. So it definitely was not wasted, but I understand why the creative side and the vision side is definitely fun and you get to come up with great ideas. You obviously found a need and you filled it and you've obviously been coming up with lots of ideas. I'm just wanting everybody to know the whole process from start to finish. So you come up with this idea, you found this need, wow, this is a great concept, we can really run with this. How do you start? Where do you go? Who draws up the plans or do you draw them up and bring a sketch to someone who then draws it out for you?

Caitie Gehlhausen: Yeah. I think to understand the process, I should probably take it all the way back to the original, how the idea even came about. So I entered my freshman year of college establishing that I was going to be an entrepreneurship finance double major. So I went about my fall semester and wasn't involved in any sort of entrepreneurship programs or clubs, didn't know the professors or anything like that, which is, I would say pretty typical for a freshman coming in. And so I went home for Christmas break and my dad was like," So have you gotten involved in your entrepreneurship major? And I was like, I haven't crosstalk.

Emily Flanigan: I'm like, I'm in the class.

Caitie Gehlhausen: Yeah. Well, I wasn't even in any classes. Yeah. I was still taking all my like Gen Eds. So I hadn't gotten involved yet and he was like," Have you thought about starting a business yet or any ideas?" And I was like," No, that hasn't even crossed my mind." I was like," I don't even know what I would even start." I was like," I keep trying to figure out what I would start, but I can't figure it out." I just felt I had complete writer's block, but for ideation instead of writing. And he gave me the best advice that could have ever shaped me as an entrepreneur, and it was just to stop trying to think up ideas, but just be observant of the problems that you and your friends and your peers around you are having and try to find a solution for it. I surrendered to the process of just observing and stopped trying to reinvent the wheel and trying to think up the next million dollar idea. I just was ready to let it flow my way. It was two weeks after that advice that I saw the problem with my friends and then did the research to make sure it didn't exist and then acted on it. So I would say that's probably the first step is just once you actually see a problem is researching to see if there's a solution already out there, and if there is a solution, do you have an idea to make that solution better? Or if there's not a solution, how are you going to bring it to the market? So I think that, that's the biggest first step. And then I went to my professors and I told them about my great idea, I hadn't even met them before. I was nervous to even tell them, I was like,"Are they going to steal my idea?" It's so funny because they're my biggest supporters and mentors now, they would never steal a student's idea, but I was just so naive, had no idea. And so I told them about it and they were like," I have no idea what you're talking about."

Michelle Brandriss: Oh, that's so funny.

Caitie Gehlhausen: Yeah. They were like," I don't know what a phone grip is." They're like," I think I've seen one of those phone wallet things. I'm not sure."

Emily Flanigan: Oh my God. Every girl's back of their phone, what do you mean?

Caitie Gehlhausen: Right. In this conversation, the professors mimicked almost exactly what the conversation I told my parents.

Michelle Brandriss: Yeah. I was wondering about that.

Caitie Gehlhausen: Yeah. They also didn't get it at first. So I got my parents on one side saying they don't know what I'm talking about and my professor saying, they don't know what I'm talking about. So my professors told me," How about you go sketch it up, just so I can visually see what you're talking about." I was like," Okay, you're right. I will go sketch it up." I actually wish I had the sketch, I have the sketch still to this day, but I went and I sketched it up and it looks very similar to what it is today actually, surprisingly. Because I did three different sketches and I think it was the first or second one that I did that ended up being super similar to what it is. I brought it back to them and they were like," Cool. Okay, now that you have that, I get what you were saying." They were like," Here you go, we have a prototyping fund for the entrepreneurship crosstalk students."

Michelle Brandriss: How cool is that? That is so neat.

Caitie Gehlhausen: Yes. So I applied for it and I got approved right away. I don't know if I was just the only one applying for it, but I got approved I think it was a$ 500 scholarship to be able to do in my 3D prototypes. So that was huge in just validating and feeling like someone was on my side and ready to help me move this forward. The first people that I actually pitched were my parents on this. They were going to be my greatest supporters and I know that they've gone through processes like this before, so wanted to hear their opinion. My dad then went on to get me connected with his patent attorney who did a patent search, and he told me from the illegal side that there was nothing out there on the market that was going to prohibit me from being able to file for a patent. So that was another validating factor for me to be able to move forward.

Michelle Brandriss: Just for the listeners, because patent attorneys can be expensive. So I guess my question is, when you saw the prototype, you were like," This is it. I know that this is a great, great concept." When you approach the patent attorney, how much does something like that cost for them to do the initial, in general to do the initial look through making sure that you don't have a challenger out there?

Caitie Gehlhausen: Yeah. So some people do it opposite of what I did it, where they'll do the initial provisional patent and then they'll save money on that and give themself a year to raise the funds, to be able to file for the full utility or design patent with an actual patent attorney.

Michelle Brandriss: Okay.

Caitie Gehlhausen: So they'll have the money on the back end. They'll save it upfront by doing it themselves, just a generic provisional patent and then they'll have a professional do it for them. I did it the opposite way and I think I might have saved a little bit of money, but I think it all comes out in the wash. I had my patent attorney file upfront for the provisional so that most of it was pretty much complete by the time that it was ready to file for the full patent. So I would say all in it's probably 10 grand.

Michelle Brandriss: Okay.

Caitie Gehlhausen: But it could be more depending on how intricate your product is. Mine is pretty straightforward.

Michelle Brandriss: So you have the patent going in the background and it takes time. It was it about a year or so from start to finish?

Caitie Gehlhausen: Yes. I want to say it was maybe 16 months. I was going to say 14. I think it was 16 months, which was extremely fast compared to a normal patent application being approved. Actually it was at a pitch competition and one of the judges grilled me on that question and he was like," No way that you already have the application approved." I was like, I do. And out of pure innocence, I was like," I love to give you my patent attorney's number after this, if you like use him." And the crowd just went nuts, they were dying laughing, and it was a room of 500 people. I was like," I wasn't trying to be a smart ass." I was genuinely like," No, I really do have this patent approved." It's just a little funny thing. Yeah.

Michelle Brandriss: I love that.

Caitie Gehlhausen: It usually takes a lot longer. I don't know what U. S. Patent and Trademark Office must have just been on at that day. I don't know.

Michelle Brandriss: Or you know what? You didn't have a contender out there. It was a one item that didn't have anything that would conflict.

Emily Flanigan: And like you said, it was a straightforward product.

Michelle Brandriss: Yes.

Caitie Gehlhausen: Right.

Michelle Brandriss: Yes. So now you have the patent going in the background and now you're like," Okay, I want to make this product." Because this is so different from how I approach starting my business. Everything I make is custom, so it's made to order. So you're making everything up front and you're ordering up front. How many did you order? And you ended up, okay, so this is the big deal. So this is where I was really blown away.

Emily Flanigan: She's nerding out.

Michelle Brandriss: I'm nerding out, you got into Walmart. You were in Walmart and you've got your product into Walmart, the biggest national chain.

Emily Flanigan: It's crazy impressive.

Michelle Brandriss: Yeah. So how does that go? Did Walmart happen before you had the product made? How did you do this?

Caitie Gehlhausen: Yeah. So I'll I guess pick up from the timeline where I started trying to look for me manufacturers. I started looking for manufacturers in spring of 2018. Still, my freshman year of college, was researching different manufacturers that worked in the injection molding space and just happened to find a location that was about 20 minutes away from my home here in Indiana. So it was perfect.

Michelle Brandriss: Yes.

Caitie Gehlhausen: Not that overseas or out- of- state can't work for people, but I think at 19 years old, I'm already trying to figure everything else out. That was one less thing I had to worry about was time difference or language barriers or all the other things that come with international. So it was perfect and we started working with him, and he was someone who was amazing from the get go with us, because he was someone who was small enough of a manufacturer to where we were important to him, and he would give us the time of day. But also big enough to where we could scale with him, if we happen to get a national retailer, which we ended up getting a national retailer. So I would say that selecting a manufacturer who takes you seriously, but is also able to grow with you is super important. So once we selected him, the manufacturing process and getting the molds took a while. So we were actually promoting the product, and when I say we, me and my mom are in business together. She's my right hand lady and she's my business partner in everything, so she's awesome. We've been in business since day one together. So when I say we that's...

Michelle Brandriss: Oh, That's so fun.

Caitie Gehlhausen: Yes.

Michelle Brandriss: So fun.

Caitie Gehlhausen: Yep. That's who I mean, and then now our team. So during the summer of 2018, we were actually promoting the product before we even had products. So we were using our prototypes in order to promote it, which the prototypes were functional, but they weren't pretty, they weren't cute. They showed the concept and people got the visual and were able to touch, feel, hold it. But typically 3D printing isn't going to look the same as a commercial manufacturing product. So we went to... My mom at the time, she was still working for her sales company and they had a national meeting in Miami where they had 400 sales reps and they were always looking for new, fun, innovative products that their competitors weren't using. And so we asked the VP of sales, if we could pitch the products and they said," Yes, you have three minutes on stage. Wow them with your product, then you got to get off." And I was like," Perfect. Three minutes is all I need." And so I did my spiel and I had my contact information up on stage and I was thinking," Oh, that'd be awesome if I get couple people who maybe want to put in some pre- orders, that'd be awesome." I look at my phone by the time I get I step down the staircase and get off stage, and I had like 30 messages from sales reps and people flocking to come over and talk to me about this. And I was like," Holy cow, I was joking when I said that oh yeah text me now." So we ended up doing pre- sale orders of 7, 500 units with the company before I had ever even produced one unit.

Michelle Brandriss: Good for you. That's so amazing.

Caitie Gehlhausen: Yeah. So that was actually the seed money or it helped with the seed money for our big production mold. So that was for our big production mold. And then we went on and we actually launched onto the market in March 2019. We were selling primarily in the smaller brick and mortar online and on our website and on our Amazon listings, and then primarily in the promotional space where we were able to customize four different events, corporate events, corporate gifts, things like that. That was what we were heavily getting into at the end of 2019 and into 2020, and we had a really good track record of sales at that point for being so new onto the market. I saw the writing on the wall, I actually was playing division one golf at school. That summer, I was like," I need to retire the clubs and work on my business full time." Since I no longer had a golf scholarship, an athletic scholarship, I knew I needed to graduate a year early. So I went ahead and decided that I was going to graduate in spring of 2020 instead. And so going into 2020, I was like," Oh, we have high momentum in the company. This is going to be super awesome." We were getting quotes from different company or requested quotes from different companies for 10, 15, 20,000 units that they were wanting for these big corporate events and branded events or branded products that they were wanting. We were like," This is going to be awesome. This is going to be our full- time job." As you can see where this is going.

Michelle Brandriss: I just shook my head, I'm like, oh no.

Caitie Gehlhausen: Yeah. So we were super excited for it, and then March 2020 happens and COVID completely just destroyed the promotional industry. Promotional went down to nothing, there was zero events. So obviously no corporate events, meant no revenue for our company. And we were forced like many other small businesses to either pivot or die. And so we were trying a couple of different things, trying to push online sales and I ended up graduating and it wasn't going to be something sustainable without big change. I started doing applications for online vendor portals for big retailers. I did that in the spring and hadn't heard anything back from any of the retailers. It was just radio silence. COVID is so uncertain, I don't know what's going to happen as everyone was at the time. Everyone was just searching for security. So I was like, maybe I should accept a job and if things turn around with the business, then I know going into my job, I am willing to quit. I have no, I don't know. I didn't have any scared thoughts about just quitting my job. So I actually accepted a job offer in July 2020, and two days later, I get this email randomly from Walmart that says you've been invited to their 2020 open call, and I was like," Oh my gosh."

Michelle Brandriss: Okay. What is their open call? I've never heard of this.

Caitie Gehlhausen: Yeah. So their open call is for U. S. made products. So they contacted me two days after I had accepted my job. I'm like," What are the chances?" I've been waiting for this email for four months and nothing."

Emily Flanigan: I think that's Murphy's law. Right?

Caitie Gehlhausen: Right. Right.

Emily Flanigan: Anything that can happen will happen or what is it?

Caitie Gehlhausen: Yeah. I know what you're talking about.

Emily Flanigan: Bad timing.

Caitie Gehlhausen: Yeah. So I was like," Okay, I won't get all worked up about this until I know the timeline, when is this interview going to be?" So they come out with interview dates to talk with the buyers from Walmart. And it was three days into my start date for my job, and I'm like," Oh my gosh, I have to ask off my third day on the job already." Not a good look for me, that's for sure. So I'm like," I have a prior commitment that I have on such and such day in October 2020."

Michelle Brandriss: Now, did you have to travel to go to this meeting as well?

Caitie Gehlhausen: Typically, we would have.

Michelle Brandriss: Okay.

Caitie Gehlhausen: But it would've been in Bentonville, Arkansas, but because of COVID, everything went virtual, which actually worked out really well.

Michelle Brandriss: Okay.

Caitie Gehlhausen: Yes. So I'm like," Okay. I'm just not going to tell anyone about this until it's for sure. I don't want to jinx anything." So I had prepared for this meeting, all the way from July to October. Just because I had no idea what to expect from a big retailer. Like what are they wanting to hear from me? I only have 30 minutes. So I went out on a mission to find every person that I knew who had either been on the buying side of Walmart, who had worked corporate or who had been a seller who had been a vendor to Walmart. Just within my network.

Michelle Brandriss: Now, does Walmart roll things out regionally or is it nationally?

Caitie Gehlhausen: This is where it gets interesting.

Michelle Brandriss: Okay.

Caitie Gehlhausen: Is typically they would do regionally. So I was having these conversations with everyone and I was like," What should I expect? Am I going to expect two stores? Am I going to expect all stores? What should my expectations be?" The overwhelming response from every person, I talked to probably a dozen people was," They're probably just going to give you a test run of maybe a 100 stores to start. And then if they do, it's going to maybe take eight, 10 months to get in." And then they said," They probably won't tell you on the first call." They probably would take the information, go back with their team, review it, and then whatever. So I'm going into this meeting thinking this and I'm like," Okay, I have time. I can scale slowly. Maybe I can do my job." And halfway through the meeting, the buyers just go," Caitie, Caitie, you can just stop." I'm like, oh gosh. They're like," We love it. We want to in all of our stores by April 2021.

Michelle Brandriss: Oh my goodness.

Caitie Gehlhausen: I'm like, it's October. So I'm starting to do the math in my head, I think I blacked out for the next five minutes. I was just so excited. So basically everything anyone had prepared me for went out the window crosstalk far beyond anything I could've ever dreamt for.

Michelle Brandriss: What does that mean? How many units did you have to have ready?

Caitie Gehlhausen: Yeah. So they had originally asked for about a half a million units and we couldn't get that many, but we got them a big chunk of that. We worked with them to scale at the rate that we could. So we did over 3000 store rollout. How we first got in was a three month feature for a floor display that was going to feature our product in it, and it was going to run from April, May, June. And so in order to deliver that product to be able to be packed out in these displays, we actually had to deliver it to them the first week of February.

Emily Flanigan: Oh my goodness.

Caitie Gehlhausen: And this is October.

Michelle Brandriss: How is that even possible?

Caitie Gehlhausen: Because we had a really good manufacturer who was able to scale with us very quickly. We had just really great people who were willing to help us, because mind you, this was a two person team. This was me and my mom at the time.

Michelle Brandriss: Amazing.

Caitie Gehlhausen: Right. Some people probably thought we were freaking crazy for thinking that we could do it just us two. But we did. Now we have another team member, but at the time we launched fully as a team of two. One single purchase order with Walmart, 12Xed our entire sales that we had ever had to date in two years.

Michelle Brandriss: Oh my goodness.

Caitie Gehlhausen: It was insane.

Michelle Brandriss: I'm curious, you have designs, you have a variety of products. So was it just one color that they wanted to launch with or did you have to provide different colors as well?

Caitie Gehlhausen: So they took what we currently had as our assortment and they decided what they had wanted. So they launched for the feature, they launched a black and aqua, a white and a flag design. They worked with us to see what we thought, and then they took that information for the feature, the three month feature to decide what they wanted to put officially on their planogram.

Michelle Brandriss: Okay.

Caitie Gehlhausen: That's how that process works.

Michelle Brandriss: So is this something they only do with new products or is it a seasonal thing where you can be featured once a year? How does the feature work?

Caitie Gehlhausen: So they do features often. How I understand it is that they typically like to do a feature before they commit to putting you officially on their store modular. Just that way they know that you can deliver as a vendor and the transition is probably a little bit more seamless, because you're already going to have all of your products set up in their system and everything. So I think as a new product, they typically do a feature, but during the middle of our feature, so probably month and a half into selling, they already committed to, at the time it was about 1200 stores that they were officially going to put us on. No, not 1200. Why did I say? 1800 stores and we're actually adding on another 1, 000 stores in May.

Michelle Brandriss: Holy smokes.

Emily Flanigan: Congratulations.

Caitie Gehlhausen: Thank you.

Michelle Brandriss: The ball is rolling. This is Massive.

Emily Flanigan: Yeah. I was thinking earlier a snowball and you're like," You could take it from here." I'm like, it literally just sounded like it started rolling and you just had to let it go.

Michelle Brandriss: Okay. This is unbelievable. And I was going," Oh, I bet she gets a lot of business through social media, social media channels." I could just see this taking off, but that is truly amazing. Now, something I was always curious about, when you get into Walmart, how does that work? Do they buy the products up front? I'm just curious on that part of it.

Caitie Gehlhausen: Yeah. So they'll give you commitments, unofficial commitments, several months out in advance so that you can plan. And then the actual purchase orders will start coming through about a month out from when a big initial store fill will happen. So for example, we have our commitments for what we know we're going to set in stores for a 1, 000 store increase in May, but those purchase orders will probably come a month beforehand to actually start being able to fulfill them. And then week by week, they have replenishment, so as in stocks at a store level start to drop, then the stores and distribution centers can order more, and that works off of a week by week basis. So we still do have to build up inventory because for replenishing on current stores, we have to have that.

Michelle Brandriss: So I see this and you know how Gen Z-er, sorry, you like the new colors, the new styles, the different things. I could see as people upgrade their phone or their cover, they'll get a new one. This is not a one and done thing you're going to be having customers come back to you.

Caitie Gehlhausen: Yeah. Yeah. That's something that we're really excited about, and this might be pre premature to say, but I'm the boss, so I'm going to allow myself to say this. But we are actively working on a way to make them all exchangeable, so that if you have five different Socket Lock- Its, that you can exchange them out day by day without having to actually remove it via the adhesive and reapply a whole new one. So that's something that we're finalizing our testing and are going to hopefully be offering that on our website in different channels soon. Yeah. It's exactly the vision you're right on with the vision of where we're trying to go with it.

Michelle Brandriss: I love it. Okay. So now my other thought is the phone grips, is that a U. S. thing or is it in Canada? Is it in Europe? Or is this something that just is in the U. S. market?

Caitie Gehlhausen: It's everywhere.

Michelle Brandriss: Okay.

Caitie Gehlhausen: Yeah.

Michelle Brandriss: So you're going to go global with this.

Caitie Gehlhausen: Oh, I hope so. I think that the easiest way for us to break through to international markets would probably be through, if Walmart would be able to take us global or another retailer. I think that would be the easiest barrier to entry for us.

Michelle Brandriss: Fantastic. One of my thoughts was like," How has this changed your life?" Well, oh my goodness. I don't even think you know yet. The rocket ship just took off.

Caitie Gehlhausen: Yes. Yes. It has been a crazy journey. That's for sure. I've learned so much. Retail works in acronyms, so it's like, I have learned all the acronyms possible. I'm talking in the alphabet. UPCs, GTINs, inaudible. OTIF. It's crazy. All these terms that I never even knew a year ago.

Michelle Brandriss: Okay. So now I'm just curious, you must have been approached. Obviously you don't need to go to a Shark Tank. You've got it made. You don't need any investors. Has anybody approached you yet about buying your patent and your product?

Caitie Gehlhausen: No. So not yet. I think that part of it is that we haven't been actively looking or been open to it, but maybe soon. We'll see. I don't know.

Michelle Brandriss: Oh, definitely. I like your attitude. You're rolling with it. You're positive. I really think that you're looking at all the opportunities, so a lot is going to be coming your way. Now that you've done this, do you find yourself now inventing and wanting to do other things?

Caitie Gehlhausen: Yes. I am constantly looking at the world as just a plethora of ideas waiting to be solved. And sometimes that's a good thing, and sometimes that's not a good thing, because I can get distracted. I think a lot of entrepreneurs probably feel the same way that they just get so excited about all these different things that they can create and make possible. But I think that I don't ever see myself doing one thing and maybe that will evolve over the years, but I'm super psyched about the next product that I'll be launching this year. I'm also excited to just continue innovating within the brand of Socket Lock- It, because I'm super excited to jump from it being a product, to being an entire line of products and brand.

Michelle Brandriss: Well, that's great. Do you get a lot of people? I'm drilling you, I'm so sorry. I just think it's fascinating. So people must be asking you questions all the time, wanting you to be a mentor, that type of thing. Do you find that happening a lot?

Caitie Gehlhausen: It does happen, but I don't mind it. Because I am a firm believer of the energy put out into the world is the energy you receive. I would not have been able to successfully launch in Walmart without people mentoring me. I think it's just the cycle of it. You get help and then you turn around and you give your help.

Michelle Brandriss: So I can actually see you changing places with one of your professors someday. I could easily see that happening. I think that would be great.

Caitie Gehlhausen: That would be awesome. That would be awesome.

Emily Flanigan: It's so cool too. You've had that mindset throughout this whole thing. You said that at the very beginning, you just let whatever take the wheel and you take your hands off the wheel and then the idea came to you two weeks later.

Caitie Gehlhausen: Right. I think too, because everyone has a story, whether it's Walmart, whether it's a different retailer, whether it's a different industry entirely about someone's second cousins, husbands, mom started a business and had a bad experience and that's why you shouldn't work with such and such. And so I was nervous to accept Walmart and to not be able to deliver fully or all of the what ifs that come with working with the world's largest retail. I was expressing those feelings to my professor and he was like," Caitie, take a deep breath." He's like," When Walmart calls you and says, they want your product in their stores, you nod." He goes," Start nodding with me." And he goes," And you say yes and you continue and they ask you, are you EDI capable? And you say yes. And they say, are you retail packaging ready? You say yes." He goes," Even if you aren't ready," he goes," We're going to get you there." They say, are you capable? Yes, I am physically capable. Am I doing it right now? No. But...

Michelle Brandriss: But I can make it happen.

Caitie Gehlhausen: But I can make it happen. So that's in my whole mindset going for it. I think people get so in their head about it and it is a lot and it's a lot to learn, but it's not rocket science. You can learn it. It was me and my mom, we did it. We did not have an entire team of hundreds of people.

Michelle Brandriss: Gosh, thank you so much for sharing your story. Just as far as any lesson or big lesson that you would want to... The misstep, did you have any missteps that you were like, Hey, avoid this? Just something to be aware of. But it sounds like it just was destiny. Just seem like the path was already paved and you were meant to be there.

Caitie Gehlhausen: Yeah. Did we have missteps? We had a lot of missteps and I don't even know if it would be considered missteps more just like learnings. I think that one of my biggest things, looking in hindsight is just that you don't have control over timing. I can submit a million applications to vendor portals, I'm not doing anything different in March 2020, than I was in October 2020. It was all the timing of when it was perfect for our business. I think just like letting go of that. I feel like I always hated that when I was trying to get into big retail because it's easy to say when you're already have gotten there, but even now, there're other channels and people I'm trying to work with and partners I'm trying to get. I just have to surrender to the process and know that it's happen at its perfect timing. And I think that stands true for any entrepreneur, no matter what industry you're in.

Michelle Brandriss: So thank you. I want to just to close on something that... Any quote? One of your favorite sayings.

Caitie Gehlhausen: Yeah. I would say one of my favorite sayings is just control the controllables, but surrender to the process. I think that quote embodies both the masculine and feminine energies that you have to have balanced in order to make a business work. Yeah. I love that quote.

Michelle Brandriss: That's beautiful. Perfect.

Emily Flanigan: I love your explanation behind it too.

Michelle Brandriss: Absolutely.

Caitie Gehlhausen: Yes.

Michelle Brandriss: So Caitie, congratulations. Thank you so much for sharing your amazing story. It was fantastic.

Caitie Gehlhausen: Thank you so much for having me. This has been so much fun.

Emily Flanigan: Yes, it was so fun. Thank you.

Caitie Gehlhausen: Yes. Thank you.

Michelle Brandriss: Thank you for coming today and listening to From The Basement Up. Be sure to check our show notes on namebubbles. com for information the guest provided. Subscribe on your listening platform and if you can, give us that five star review. Have a great day.


We talk to Caitie Gehlhausen, Founder of Socket Lockit, on this episode of From the Basement Up. Michelle, Emily, and Caitie dive deep into what it takes to develop a product and bring it to market. An inventor and entrepreneur mindset led Caitie to the doorstep of Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, at just 19 years old. This is an amazing accomplishment for anyone, but how quickly her concept was being manufactured and sold across the country is remarkable.  

Caitie is a self-described serial entrepreneur who, at a young age, knew she wanted to invent things. Her entrepreneurial skills were innately ingrained, as her parents are cut from this cloth. The next step was to go to college to hone these skills. She chose Entrepreneurship as her major in college, but the ideas didn’t start flowing. 

It took a little while and some sage advice from her father to develop her great idea. Caitie’s father told her not to force the million-dollar idea but instead look at the problems she and her peers were facing. She quickly took this advice to heart and saw there was an issue with compatibility with two popular products at the time in 2018.

Her ingenious Socket Lockit is a patent-approved cardholder for the back of your phone that allows the popular pop-up phone grip to be incorporated into the product. Now customers have the convenience of both the phone grip and the card and ID holder at the same time. Before Caitie’s idea, people had to choose one or the other, it was not possible to have both. She saw an opportunity to create a product that solved a problem, and there was nothing else like it on the market! 

After continuing along and following each step, her product would soon become a reality. The most impressive part of this story is that she already had multiple smaller retailers bidding to have it in their store before the product was created.

This story shows that no matter your age, you can develop a great idea and create something that the world wants. It tells us that problem solving and looking for solutions will get you far in life. This inspiring story is a must-listen, and we hope you feel inspired to look around the world and see where you can make your mark.

Today's Host

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Michelle Brandriss

|Founder of Name Bubbles
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Emily Flanagan


Today's Guests

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Caitie Gehlhausen

|Founder & CEO
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Michelle Brandriss

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Emily Flanagan