New Downtown Retailer Wants You to Lighten UpBusiness Profiles — By Melanie McIntyre on December 21, 2010 at 8:00 am
Chances are you know someone whose wallet is always overflowing with credit cards and store cards, cash, receipts, coupons, postage stamps, old lottery tickets… And it ain’t pretty.
Paul Westrick wants to help those people. He even calls himself a “wallet therapist.” However, his brand of treatment doesn’t consist of couches or childhood reflections, just the purchase of a zeroz− an alternative to the traditional wallet that he first began developing two years ago.
“When an authentic need or problem reveals itself to me, it’s fun and challenging to find a great solution,” Westrick says. “In this day of unprecedented brand and product development, it would seem that all solutions have been realized. How wonderfully cool to know there’s always another approach to even the most common, basic elements for living.”
Read our interview with the zeroz president to learn more about his product, which resources he didn’t use to get his business off the ground, and how a trip to the Apple store convinced his wife that a zeroz line could be profitable.
Melanie McIntyre: First off, how do zeroz wallets differ from typical ones?
Paul Westrick: It’s intriguing to even call zeroz a wallet. I’ve watched many passersby stare into the zeroz storefront trying to figure out how they work. These are smart people! I think. However, this reaction is because we don’t expect credit cards, ID cards, gift cards, et cetera. to simply slide together into a compact unit. Many people ask, “Are these phones?” ”Where’s the bottom?” ”Why don’t they fall out?” “How do they work?” It’s quite fun to see their eyes smile when they realize how cool, simple, and practical a zeroz is.
How they differ: we don’t create individual slots for every card. Most empty wallets are fatter than a zeroz. When a zeroz is fully loaded and ready to go, we don’t need 20 slots for a fast draw of a debit card or ID.
MM: Where are zeroz products made?
PW: Other than the extra cool, quality leather coming from Italy, zeroz is handcrafted here in Ohio. The big chunky equipment that presses out the leather and recycled leather base is from a local partner. The tricky cool cashStraps are laser cut here also. Look closely at this awesome detail they figured out for us. All of the printed pieces are also locally produced. At zeroz, we do the final production.
MM: How many styles and colors are available for men and women?
PW: Another unique aspect of zeroz is that they come in four sizes. So you can dial in exactly the perfect amount of wallet you want to carry. No more lugging around the file cabinet of collected outdated gift cards, old receipts. You probably remember the George Costanza wallet episode from Seinfeld. zeroz is designed to help us all streamline what we actually use. We should be traveling lighter and getting to what we need quicker.
Other than size, there are currently four designs and six color leathers. As a designer, it is hard to limit myself, as I can imagine many more options. We plan to have new color introductions and designs to respond to customer requests and fashion trends. In the future, I hope to give zeroz lovers the chance to vote for which colors and designs are introduced into our line. In the meantime, we hope you stop by and tell us your favorites!
MM: When did you set up shop on Gay Street?
PW: December of this year. We get lots of questions, opinions, ideas, excitement and converts. We have the perfect environment for the rebirth of your wallet. Cards and IDs, receipts and money, even tickets, are dumped out, rearranged, and reassembled right in our store. We did not plan to coax and covert on the spot, but it’s great fun to help people release themselves from the saggy baggage of old, fat wallets, and walk out lighter, thinner, even smiling more!
MM: When you decided to launch zeroz, what were some of the first steps you took?
PW: Most ideas and inventions come from everyday living, being in touch with the motions and emotions of everyday life. For me, inspiration happens most vividly on my bike, most often during commutes or long rides. When I am riding, probably the same with running and all the great endorphins that happen, I think, “Anything is possible!” I start a ride because I know I should be out, and a half hour later, or even 10 hours later, all problems are solved, new ideas have emerged, challenges have solutions, and everything, everything, is possible.
More practically speaking, the first step was during a four-day ride through the Appalachian mountains on the way to Washington DC. I did not want to carry my old, fat wallet, so I slimmed down to the essentials and used a rubber band. It made it through heavy rains, mud, and abuse, and I arrived with everything somewhat soggy, but intact. I figured there had to be a cooler solution than a rubber band.
We experimented with various materials and alternative leathers, like dear skin. Those deers sure are stretchy, too boingy for a zeroz wallet. We tried different forms of construction and cashStraps, money clip alternatives to tag on cash or receipts. We then created and released 10 prototypes to testers who roamed the U.S. and the world over the next two years using their zeroz. The more we researched wallets and the market, with its unlimited options, we were surprised there was nothing like zeroz, so we pursued a patent. A zeroz patent is currently pending and will be issued later next year. A slow, but important, process for our small company.
From there, we continued to make refinements, committed to a leather supplier, created process and manufacturing solutions. Parallel to this, we were creating the name and tag line: Less wallet. More cool. We secured the zeroz.com URL, created the website and packaging and all the brand elements, included the storefront to bring the zeroz experience to life.