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Film Veteran Wrapped Up In Ear Buds

Gary Martinez specializes in the complex and the spectacular. As a mechanical designer for Hollywood films, he’s worked on such over-the-top projects as “A.I.: Artificial Intelligence” and “Godzilla.” But when he decided to fund a new venture through a Kickstarter crowd-funding campaign earlier this year, it was for a decidedly low-tech product: ear bud holders. “Everyone’s been there, they’re always getting tangled in your pockets, bags or purses,” Martinez said of the ubiquitous tech accessory. “So I thought why not figure out a way to fix it?” Martinez, 45, attempted to fund the startup for his Earbud Shield in March, but failed to meet the $17,500 in pledges that he’d set for himself. He tried again at $7,200 and exceeded the goal, raising nearly $11,000. He has used the funding to set up at Technoprops Inc., the Valencia prop studio where he has worked for 10 years. He’s also launched his website, www.earbudshield.com, and plans to start selling the contraptions directly in the next couple of months. Little more than a leather pouch containing a spool to wind up the cords, he plans to sell them for under $20. Martinez currently has a backlog of roughly 600 units that were purchased through the Kickstarter campaign, and has for now moved to selling orders through Shopstarter.org, a site that allows successful crowd-funded projects to take preorders. He officially formed his new company, Earbud Shield LLC, in late May and says once the backorders are completed, he’ll look to direct orders. But Martinez is hardly the first budding entrepreneur to see an opportunity in his own exasperation. Coppell, Texas retailer Container Store Inc. has a $4.99 version called The Wrapster and Houston businesswoman Julie Johnson Barkley began marketing her Earbud Yo-Yo in 2008 for $9.99. Martinez says he doesn’t plan on turning ear buds into a full-time job quite yet, but said there is customer interest in his product, which he bills as more upscale than the competition. “It’s well-crafted, leather, it’s attractive to look at and won’t break as easy as the plastic versions,” he said. – Kelly Goff

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