A longtime entrepreneur, Bill McCurdy created a business that makes safe storage cases for cellphone accessories.
McCurdy founded Kentwood-based BluCase in 2011 while living in Chicagoland, then moved the business to West Michigan. He worked with Zeeland-based DISHER to prototype his first products and now partners on design and manufacturing with a supplier in China to make AirPod cases, wired earbuds carrying cases and Bluetooth headset carrying cases.
As far as he knows, McCurdy said his is the only minority-owned cellphone accessories business with a presence in West Michigan.
A native of the Chicago area, McCurdy earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Ball State University in Indiana in 1993 and later did master’s coursework at Indiana University. He founded several businesses in greater Chicago, including InnerScope, iClean and Honor-Guard Security, a security guard service provider certified as a government contractor that was renamed World-Wide Protection Group after he sold it.
Back in college, McCurdy said he had entrepreneurial and design instincts, making sketches of headphones that could be used for personal music players in the early ’90s, long before the iPod came out, although he never acted on it and the designs ended up buried away in boxes in his garage in Illinois.
Starting BluCase gave him the opportunity to explore new concepts. The idea for a Bluetooth headset case came due to a law enacted in Illinois that required drivers to use a hands-free method to talk on their cellphone while navigating traffic, to prevent accidents. During a work trip, McCurdy set his Bluetooth headset down on the arm rest of his car, and when he closed the car door to go into Walgreens, the headset fell onto the driver’s seat, and he accidentally sat on it and broke it when he got back into his car.
“That was like my fourth one I broke,” he said.
McCurdy couldn’t find any hard protective cases on the market that would prevent such accidents — the only cases out there were mesh — so he decided to develop his own. Thus, BluCase was born.
“It started as a side business, really,” he said, noting it ramped up in 2015, and he now works on the business full time alongside a couple of employees.
The first product was a universal Bluetooth headset carrying case, then he made a bigger one that was able to accommodate “99% of all Bluetooth headsets made worldwide.”
When the market started shifting toward wired earbuds, BluCase made cases for those, too. When the AirPod wireless earbuds came out, BluCase shifted to making a protective case to fit the first and second generation AirPods.
The company is now in the middle of rolling out cases for the Apple AirPod Pro generation that is out now.
“Other cellphone accessory companies, most of them are making protective cases for cellphones, tablets and so forth, but nobody was really making any type of protective case for Bluetooth headsets, wired earbuds (and the Apple) AirPods,” McCurdy said.
All of the BluCase protective cases are designed to be accessible, with a push button release that opens the lid to a 90-degree angle; protective, with a foam inner cushion that holds the product and a pull-tab that releases the earbuds; and non-slip, with a silicone coating around the outside of the hard plastic case.
“You pay a lot of money for these products, so it’s just an overall better way to protect (them),” McCurdy said.
They also come with a durable clip so the cases can be attached to one’s belt, backpack, gym bag or purse for more accessibility on the go.
McCurdy said BluCase is waiting on a shipment of 5,000 units of the newest generation Apple AirPod Pro cases that were delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and he is working on launching a marketing campaign of the products primarily targeting 17- to 35-year-olds, including an advertising campaign with the local branch of Effectv that he hopes will roll out in the first or second quarter of this year.
“2020 was kind of a scratch year for us, as I think it was for pretty much everybody,” he said. “But I think in 2021, we’re getting ready to put it back on the table.”
The long-term goal for BluCase is to sign retail partnerships with cellphone stores such as Verizon and T-Mobile, as well as Walmart, and to break into the cellphone and tablet cover segment eventually, but for now the company’s existing products can be ordered at blucase.com, which is where the AirPod Pro next generation cases will make their debut.
McCurdy said for any entrepreneur who is just starting out with an idea or a product prototype, his advice is to learn everything possible about the industry and about business, seeking resources, training and mentorship from organizations such as the Small Business Administration, SCORE, The Right Place and others.
“Educate yourself in your industry to learn and then take advantage of every opportunity that you can,” he said.
As more and more manufacturing companies examine reshoring opportunities in the wake of COVID-19 — bringing back production to the U.S. — McCurdy said he wants to eventually be part of that wave. He said those interested in partnerships with BluCase or more information can contact him at email@example.com.