There have been at least a couple ultra-popular wallets on Kickstarter lately, typically variations on ad hoc solutions dressed up in premium materials. In fact, the crowdfunded wallet category has attracted enough backers for me to wonder how many people are going through what should be one of their most prized personal possessions so quickly as to warrant throwing down for a new one at every turn (shelling out cash or credit from their unsatisfactory or nonexistent wallet, no less).
So I was understandably skeptical when I received an e-mail entitled "Super Fun Wallet" in my inbox. Long story short, I was pleasantly surprised by the pitch on the other end of the link: the Flip n'Grip wallet lives up to its billing as a clever, playful-yet-practical cardholder. Distinctive for its trigger-style finger loop (the 'flip'), the minimal, RFID-blocking aluminum body is nicely executed but unremarkable otherwise; rather, the Flip n'Grip is noteworthy for its integration of a neat bit of sleight-of-hand (the 'grip'). Watch:
Curious to learn more about the Flip n'Grip (the barebones website sends potential customers to the KS page, as is often the case with product design projects), I replied to co-creator BJ Minson for more details about his project. He gladly supplemented the information on Kickstarter with the full story behind the Flip n'Grip.
Dan [Loveridge] and I met in school, where we both recently finished our degrees. He is a chemist by training, but an inventor at heart. Before he started school, he already had several patents from products he developed working for a dental company. I'm a mechanical engineer, a handyman and a machinist. I've always loved looking at the way things are designed, especially the way people interact with products; specifically, I've done a bunch of stuff with robots and medical equipment. We got along really well because we love designing and creating new and fun things—it's kind of funny that we have the technical degrees that we do, when we both really love the more artsy side of design and things.
The Flip n'Grip project started about a year ago when my cheap minimal wallet fell apart. It seemed to be a pattern that repeated itself every year or so. I looked around for a replacement and wasn't impressed with my options. This time, I decided that it would be a great opportunity to design and make my own wallet. I machined a rough prototype and showed it to Dan. It wasn't anything like the flip n'Grip we have now, but he got excited about creating something that would be new and different. We started taking jogs at night, tossing ideas back and forth. By day, we would make drawings and prototypes and during our nightly jogs we would evaluate what we had done.
Plastic cutout of the form factor
We quickly realized that trying to come up with a better wallet would be difficult—after all, wallets have been around for centuries and everyone has had plenty of time to make a better one. So we came at it from a different angle: instead of trying to make the 'world's greatest wallet,' we would make the 'world's funnest wallet.' We both love doing fun things and we love products that encourage a lifestyle with more fun. When we took that approach, it all just came together—pretty soon, we had the basic idea of the Flip n'Grip.
I was able to secure a free patent on the Flip n'Grip from a statewide contest I won doing a school project two years earlier. Besides the cash, we won some free hours from a local patent attorney—he was awesome and wrote a patent for us pro bono. (If you couldn't tell by now, we did this whole project on a poor student's budget.)
The earliest working protoype
We spent a few more months perfecting the mechanical design and the look of the wallet. We did dozens of handbuilt prototypes (with my machine skills) until we felt it was just right. From there, we decided we would use local shops and have this thing made in the USA. I have always loved the products my grandparents had in their homes. It seems like in the 1950s people made great things that would have a lifetime of 30–50 years. My grandma still uses a blender she got when she was first married. We wanted to make solid products like that. It bothers me when I buy something and it ends up in a landfill in just a year or two. We made sure our wallet would last decades like those USA-made products of yesteryear.
A potential downside to a great product made in the USA ends up being the cost. We priced out dozens of manufacturers and consistently got very expensive quotes. We did the math and figured that we would need to sell about a thousand wallets for $99 a piece to make this project possible. It may seem a bit high to consumers who are used to getting goods from overseas, but the Flip n'Grip will last for decades. Over time, it will outlast dozens of wallets purchased the traditional way. It's definitely a paradigm shift from the traditional concept of getting the lowest price.
The prototype six months into the development process
The Flip n'Grip launched over this past weekend and is available for pre-order on Kickstarter starting at $99. BJ and Dan have just over a month to raise 95% of their $100K funding goal—best of luck to the Salt Lake City-based duo!
More US manufacturing:
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