Six months ago, Naperville North students Ishika Sadhukhan, Mary Crossett, and Ellie Gerner were strangers. Now, they’re business partners.
Together they created Polar Pocket, a device that ends the age-old problem of tangled jewelry. The user places their jewelry in the device and secures it shut to “freeze” it into place.
It all started in their Business INCubator class where out of thirty students, there were just five women. “We kind of were drawn to each other,” said junior and Polar Pocket CEO Ishika Sadhukhan. As female athletes, they understood the struggle of trying to travel with jewelry while keeping it tangle-free.
Using an old RFID case, mattress pad foam, an Exacto knife, and nail glue, the prototype was born. But then came the hard part: figuring out how to manufacture, market, and sell the product.
The trio went to sports games to talk to parents and athletes and sent a survey to friends and family to get feedback about their product and idea. The survey received over 300 responses. “People loved our product,” said junior and Polar Pocket CFO Ellie Gerner. “They were like ‘contact me when you guys get this out!’”
But in a male-dominated space, the girls struggled to get others to see their vision. While pitching to a mostly male panel of judges for a scholarship, it was obvious they “weren’t exactly getting the need for our product, because they never had this issue,” said Sahdukhan. However, their mentor Kevin Pickett and their teacher Gene Nolan reminded them that even “if those males don’t have that problem, then they most likely know a female that does.” They also noted investors often invest in the people and not just the product
The young business owners have also struggled to source materials to make the product. After ordering RFID cases in bulk from China, the package took a month to get approved by TSA, and when it finally arrived, “80% of the cases were damaged”, said Sadhukhan. A recent order of foam off Amazon also proved to be a challenge after it was the wrong size and dimensions.
However, they see these challenges as opportunities to grow. “Everything’s trial and error, but we’re really learning a lot through it,” said senior and Polar Pocket CMO Mary Crossett.
Thanks to funding from the District 203 Naperville Education Foundation, students in the Business INCubator class don’t have to use their own money to finance their companies— a luxury many new entrepreneurs don’t have. “We’re lucky,” said Gerner. “Even though it’s not our actual money, it’s teaching us valuable lessons about costs and resources and whatnot and how to order, so that’s really beneficial to us.”
NEF encourages students to explore other avenues of funding such as scholarships and Kickstarter. So far, Polar Pocket has raised $800 of their $5,000 goal on Kickstarter. However, if they don’t reach $5,000 by Tuesday, May 11, it receives zero funding.
Polar Pocket will be available to purchase for $11.99 on their website in the next few weeks. Over the summer the students hope to display Polar Pocket in person at local farmer’s markets and art fairs in Naperville. In the future, they hope to expand the product line to include several sizes and colors.
Polar Pocket is under a provisional patent, with plans to file a utility patent next February.
Crossett heads off to college in the fall, but the businesswomen say they’ll stick together and continue to grow the business even after the class is over.
They encourage any student who is considering taking the Business INCubator class or becoming an entrepreneur, to get out and do it.
“If I can solve this simple problem with one product, then I can make a difference in someone’s life,” said Sadhukhan. “Just like helping people throughout their day is something that’s really rewarding.”
Naperville News 17’s Becky Budds Reports.