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Local inventor hopes to hit it big with new product
"There are four retailers here in Brownsville that have them," he said. "Academy's one of them. I'm hoping maybe to do a kiosk at the mall later on Prada Sunglasses Brown this summer, right before school starts. And we're looking to get them into Academy's. We're about ready to go with the retail packaging."
describes as "nice people," and showed them his idea. They liked it and gave him the number to the CEO of Jibbitz.
Kool Strapz, which wrap around backpack straps and are held in place with Velcro, feature small holes on the designed to display a type of miniature charm known as "Jibbitz." Invented by Coloradoan Sheri Schmelzer as way to dress up Crocs brand foam clogs, 673 different Jibbitz are available on the market, according to the company's website. They range from Disney characters to ladybugs, superheroes to ice cream cones, rocket ships, hula girls, muscle cars you name it. Schmelzer and her husband, Rich, sold Jibbitz to Crocs Inc. in 2006 for $20 million. Kids, it turns out, are crazy about Jibbitz.
important, he wants his children to be proud of him and for them to know that obstacles are surmountable with determination and hard work, he said. The day he sees a kid hopping on a school bus with Kool Strapz bursting with Jibbitz, he'll know he's succeeded, Ponce said.
"All of a sudden, as I was thinking, I looked down on the ground and I saw my backpack," Ponce said. "And as I looked at my backpack I thought, 'That's it. That's the common denominator. They all wear backpacks.'"
That list contains all 376 retail stores in Texas that sell Jibbitz, which have gone worldwide. What is it that Jibbitz and parent company Crocs Inc. see in Kool Strapz? More holes for Jibbitz. It's as simple as that, Ponce said.
"We flew back out there about four months ago, showed them the finished product and they loved it," he said. "Since then they've been on board with us. We are now an actual distributor for them, and just recently they sent me a list of all their contacts here in Texas."
Sales of Kool Strapz to date have been negligible, he admits, but it's because Kool Strapz is a new company and virtually unknown in the Valley, though the same can be said for Jibbitz. Ponce noted that few kids in the Valley know what they are since the Valley isn't a huge Crocs market. For that reason he plans to focus initially on the Boulder, Colo., market the birthplace of Crocs and Jibbitz before taking over the rest of the world.
commercial running on kids' cable channels on Saturday mornings and a website where Kool Strapz and 150 or so of the most popular Jibbitz are for sale. The website also has marketing videos. Ponce aims to get his product into every retailer that carries Jibbitz, including the 10 or so located in the Rio Grande Valley.
Ponce, of Rio Hondo, said that when he saw the Schmelzers interviewed on a national television show called "The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch," he was happy for them but also filled with an urgent desire to come up with something equally successful. Ponce has been inventing since he was a kid.
"I know this is a million dollar product," Ponce said. "I have no doubt about it."
Crocs is starting Ponce out in four of the company's retail outlets to see how Kool Strapz performs and then go from there. The Valley has three Crocs outlets: Two in Mercedes and one in McAllen. Ponce also scored contact information for executives with Great Wolf water parks and Disney theme parks.
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At the time he caught the Schmelzers on television, Ponce was working for the sheriff's department. One day after coming home from work he sat down to think: He wanted to create a product that would appeal to kids not just some kids, but all kids.
"It's in their best interest to get us into all their locations to sell these," he said. "Last year they did $80 million in sales. For me it's just like a golden ticket."
Ponce got a meeting with the CEO and flew to Boulder. The reaction, again, was positive. He flew back to Brownsville, found some investors and a Matamoros manufacturer, and hired local CPA and advertising firms. Ponce quit the sheriff's department to pursue his dream.
He zeroed in on the straps and realized that, like Crocs, they could be transformed into a vehicle to display Jibbitz. Ponce made a prototype Kool Strap and landed a meeting with the Schmelzers, who he Prada Velvet Wallet
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