What's In Store

Look out Beats by Dre: SouthPark firm hopes Amazon exposure fuels sales, recognition

Courtesy of Robin DeFay
Courtesy of Robin DeFay

Zipbuds, the maker of in-ear headphones with its headquarters in SouthPark, is hoping that a new partnership with Amazon.com will help gain exposure, bolster sales and make it more competitive with “big guys” like Beats by Dre.

The e-commerce behemoth this week is launching a first-of-its-kind initiative to showcase seven small businesses from across the U.S. The goal, Amazon says, is to help each business reach $1 million in sales in six months.

The experiment isn’t entirely altruistic for Amazon, though, which wants to highlight its support of smaller sellers through the “Small Business Spotlight.” Half of the products sold on Amazon worldwide are from small businesses, according to Amazon spokesman Erik Fairleigh.

“It’s really for Amazon to be better understood. We’re supporting small businesses, and that’s something that doesn’t really get talked about,” Fairleigh said.

Zipbuds started in San Diego in 2009 making headphones and earbuds, and moved its headquarters to Charlotte in 2015. The company has evolved over the years to focusing just on high-performance wireless earbuds, Zipbuds CEO Robin DeFay said.

The newest designs of the earbuds are to address what DeFay calls the five most common frustrations with sports headphones: Comfort and fit, sound quality, battery life, sweat/water durability and fashion.

“We realized there were some real gaps in the sport headphone market,” DeFay said.

Zipbuds worked with two Clemson students – Asher Smiley-Swinney, an undergrad and nephew of head football coach Dabo Swinney, and Ryan Heil, a doctoral candidate – to launch the company’s latest earbud called “26,” a product designed for intense workouts that retails for about $150.

The durable new earbuds are waterproof, they boast a 15-hour battery life and they offer multiple custom-fit settings, DeFay said.

DeFay says the Amazon exposure is “infinitely valuable” in a market that is dominated by well-known brands like Beats by Dre.

“We can’t really compete with the big guys on the marketing front,” DeFay said. He added that if the Amazon initiative is successful, Zipbuds hopes to increase production and grow its current staff of five.

Katherine Peralta: 704-358-5079, @katieperalta