Shark Tank Contestant cellhelmet Adds Custom Graphics Options for Personalized Cell Phone Accessories

cellhelmet   |   Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

A decade ago, cellhelmet’s founders came up with a then-revolutionary concept for the first cell phone case with a screen repair guarantee.  In 2013, they debuted their idea nationally on “Shark Tank.”  From there, the company quickly grew, expanding its products to include premium quality cases, screen protectors, power products, mounts, and other mobile phone accessories sold through its website (www.cellhelmet.com) and in more than 3,000 retail outlets.

We talked with Lee Terkel, cellhelmet’s executive vice president, about the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania-based company’s latest venture: custom-printed cell phone cases and power banks – including an exciting exclusive collaboration with world-renowned marine wildlife artist and conservationist Guy Harvey.

Please tell us how cellhelmet went from appearing on Shark Tank to selling its products online and in more than 3,000 stores?

Lee Terkel:  cellhelmet came to market with what was a very unique value proposition in guaranteeing the performance of our products. In other words, if your phone broke, we paid for it!  After the Shark Tank appearance, the company really took off. Soon we began offering tempered glass and liquid glass screen protectors. From there, we’ve continued to grow our offering with additional accessories and power products, including wall, car and portable power banks.

“We’ve seen very positive growth in our custom orders.”

The growth of the company has been exciting.  When I started at cellhelmet five years ago, we had two employees. We now employ more than 50 people and we’re adding new products every year.

Why did you decide to offer customized graphics on your products?
If you look at the cell phone accessories market, it’s becoming increasingly commoditized. Personalization and customization are huge trends, and we wanted to offer our clients the ability to express their personality and passions on our products. After all, cell phones are the one device that people almost always have with them – they reach for them hundreds of times each day. 

How did you select your equipment for customized printing?
Beyond incredible color and quality print, we looked for a print technology that was durable. Scalability was also a factor - we wanted to partner with a company that offered models of different sizes so we could increase our production as needed.  We chose the Roland DG VersaUV LEF2-300, a 30-inch UV printer.  Roland DG has such a great reputation for reliability, plus, it offers several sizes of UV printers, and the print quality is outstanding. 

How have your new customized and print-on-demand offerings been received?
We’ve seen very positive growth in our custom orders. People are really looking for the opportunity to express themselves, either with their own design, a favorite photo, one of our designs, or by sharing an image from an organization or brand they support. 

We have a team of people doing the production, with one person overseeing printing, and the LEF is constantly in use. Even before we started seeing orders, our UV printer was busy creating samples. We are big believers in sampling and seeding the market, and we also work with influencers. Once people get their hands on the product, it really sells itself.  

We’ve also begun working with brands and nonprofits to offer unique fundraising programs using cellhelmet Custom Creations as a value-add. 

Tell us about your partnership with Guy Harvey.
We are honored to have been selected by Guy Harvey to produce their cell phone accessory offerings. Naturally, the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation is very particular about how their art is portrayed and the quality of products they select. We went through rigorous testing, and the Foundation’s representatives were very pleased with the color matching and the precision printing we are able to provide. 

These products, custom-printed with Guy Harvey’s amazing artwork, are available both on our site and through the Foundation. A percentage of the sales go to the Foundation to support its ocean conservation efforts.  

Do you offer custom printing for businesses as well?

We manufacture custom-printed SKUs and logos for companies, and we’ve also produced custom items for special events and fundraisers with images of our local community. The LEF’s capabilities really provide us with a customization engine to print almost anything. 

One of the things that makes us really unique in this space is that we are an accessory company. Most people who offer custom printing are using unbranded cases and the quality of the product isn’t all that great. While they might get a nice print, the consumer doesn’t end up with a quality product. We offer customers the chance to express their personality on our premium products.  Additionally, we have a wide variety of quality cases and accessory products available. Most organizations can’t support a wide range of products to print on, but we can because we already sell them.

How has your business been affected by the pandemic?  
The pandemic was hard for us on multiple fronts. A huge portion of our business is brick-and-mortar retail sales, so we are only as successful as our retailers. That said, in putting the pieces back together, we definitely accelerated our omni-channel approach.  We’ve revised our online store and are now offering custom printing options.

What lies ahead for cellhelmet? 
To date we’ve been squarely focused on accessories for cell phones. In the future, we’re looking at serving additional markets with our quality products and custom-printing technology.  We often find ourselves thinking about other items that we could customize that would excite people. 

We’re also looking to continue building our products domestically, and to find ways we can give back. We’ve built a really great team who all care about our community and our planet.