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Steps Magazine | Zipping the Competition in the Bud

Every few minutes someone on a social media site like Twitter or Facebook is complaining about the frustrations of tangled headphones. The knotted, mangled mess became the inspiration for alumnus Erik Groset’s latest invention. Holding true to what he learned in his business classes at CSUSM, the cornerstone to developing a great product is creating an invention that solves a problem. And that’s exactly what he did.“The portable audio market is an attractive, yet saturated market,” explained Groset. “But by finding our perfect niche, we were able to lower the barriers of entry as a start-up business and present a product that is unlike any other out there.”That product is Zipbuds: tangle-resistant, zipper-integrated earbuds. With pristine sound quality, it features a secure and comfortable earpiece with an ultra-light, ultra-flexible zipper-cable design that prevents the headphones from tangling. Since debuting on the market one year ago, Zipbuds continues to turn heads worldwide with industry experts touting its ingenuity. It has received rave reviews from ABC News, the New York Times, CNET and Real Simple magazine, among others. Zipbuds even caught the attention of host Ellen DeGeneres, who showcased the product on her talk show as part of her 12 Days of Giveaways.At the age of 27 Groset is the president and co-founder of Zipbuds, LLC. Formerly Digital Group Audio, Groset established his startup business with Robin Defay, a childhood friend and former CSUSM student, after graduating in 2007. The first product they developed was Livespeakr, a portable multi-functional speaker system which interfaces with devices like the iPhone and Motorola Droid. Within the first year of its launch, Livespeakr generated over $1 million in revenue from online sales, and remained a number one best seller on Amazon.com for months.Innovation and ingenuity have long been characteristics Groset has embodied. At the tenacious age of seven, he began his first business venture. Capitalizing on the sweltering Chicago heat of his suburban neighborhood, he zeroed in on the lucrative market of selling Kool-Aid by the gallon to thirsty construction workers. That summer he made hundreds of dollars in a matter of weeks. His business-minded approach shares a strong family resemblance to his great grandfather, John Groset, who invented and pioneered the first ice cream cone-making machine in 1911.While the spirit of entrepreneurship runs in the family, Groset still sees tremendous value in his business degree, which he says helped prepare him to tackle the many facets of his fast-growing enterprise. One of the greatest benefits for Groset was the access and mentorship opportunities he had with his professors, many of whom have either built businesses from the ground up, worked in executive-level leadership or consulted Fortune 500 companies.“The wealth of experience my professors brought to the classroom transformed the way I saw and thought about business, and it undoubtedly played a role in how I built my business and got me to where I am today,” said Groset, who was recently inducted into the Young Inventors Internationals Hall of Fame.An active member of the College of Business Administration’s alumni chapter, Groset is about to celebrate his company’s next milestone as Zipbuds will soon land on the shelves of major retailers nationwide.To keep up with Erik Groset and learn more about his innovative company, visit www.zipbuds.com. Or, watch the debut commercial of Zipbuds: