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Cicero native invents phone accessory that leads to local job growth

Hiring Hoosiers
Posted: 6:00 AM, Sep 03, 2019
Updated: 2019-09-03 06:00:25-04

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ELWOOD — Sometimes an idea can lead to a business and that business can spark a creation of jobs.

Caitie Gehlhausen, 20, is learning this at a young age. The Cicero native is currently in college studying entrepreneurship at High Point University in North Carolina, but she is already putting what she is learning to good use back here at home.

When she was just 19, Gehlhausen noticed all her college friends wanted to carry around their big smart phones and also their school I.D. card. They needed their card for meal swipes, getting into buildings and pretty much everything else.

Rather than carrying a purse or bag, many of Gehlhausen's friends used car holders on the backs of their phones. Her friends also used phone grips because the phones are getting bigger and heavier, and to hold it for pictures is much easier with the phone grip.

However, there were no products on the market that combines the two — a phone grip with a card holder.

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"So the idea kind of sparked when one of my friends had taken off her card holder and put on a phone grip and then lost her cards," Gehlhausen said. "When I looked online, there was nothing out there like the Socket Lock-it."

So with her entrepreneurial spirit, she went to work.

"So the Socket Lock-it is an adhesive card holder where you can hold up to one, two or three cards securely in place and you can pair it with your own phone grip and combine the two so you no longer have to choose between one or the other on the back of your phone," Gehlhausen said.

Gehlhausen created a sketch, did research, sought advice, received a prototyping scholarship and now has a product that is patent-pending.

The Socket Lock-it as a product was created but now she needed to find a way to manufacture the phone accessory.

LEARN MORE | Socket Lock-it

Gelhausen wanted to be a big part in the production aspect of her business and also wanted help from her mom since she is still in school, so she looked to Indiana for a business that could create this product for her.

Just up the road from where she grew up, she found Progressive Plastics and Mike Leagre.

"It just seemed like fate that it was only 20 miles up the road," Gehlhausen said.

Mike Leagre is the co-president of Progressive Plastics in Elwood which specializes in custom injection manufacturing for military, medical and aerospace.

Leagre also has a special interest in inventors and projects like the Socket Lock-it.

"She has created something out of nothing. And that something demands attention," Leagre said. "That affects every facet of the manufacturing process. There's prototype tooling that suddenly had to be commissioned. We've got assembly workers. We've got production operators, tooling people that all are touched by a new product."

In order for his employees to do the job to make this product, it is a lot of trial and error to see what works best in the manufacturing process. They also turned to a local Indianapolis-based business for help with the adhesive backing, showing how one product can generate work for several businesses.

Thanks to the demand and success for the Socket Lock-it, Leagre says he can expand his own business.

LEARN MORE | Progressive Plastics

"This is going to end up with us increasing our staff probably 10 to 15 percent," Leagre said.

For Leagre, this is more than just a plastic phone case. This product and business helps his business in Elwood as do other projects he takes on.

Leagre said it is important for him to convey the importance of manufacturing to his employees. The work they do matters.

"We want to make sure they understand that their reach goes much further than Elwood. That there are people all around this country that are picking up the products that you've produced," Leagre said. "I think that means a lot in terms of somebody being able to get out of bed in the morning and go and do something that's going to have an impact."

Not only does Leagre need more employees to produce products at Progressive Plastics, but Gehlhausen is also looking to hire two new employees.