We had the opportunity to sit down with Brittany Evans, the inventor and founder of SparkBudz, to talk about her process, her product, the trials and tribulations of manufacturing, and her advice to young women in crowdfunding. We also asked her about the music she’s currently listening to, because when you’re talking to an innovator in the music space, you can’t pass up that opportunity. You can watch Brittany on 2 Minute Drill here before reading our interview below!
LaunchBoom: We want to talk about your process and about your productf. We rewatched your 2 Minute Drill video this morning so it was fresh in our minds, and you really blew it out of the water.
Brittany Evans: Thank you! I was really nervous. It was a month of practicing with my mentor. A few years ago, I reached out to LaunchBoom, because I really wanted to get into the crowdfunding phase. Unfortunately, I couldn’t afford it, because I was a college student at the time. I was still trying to save up for the manufacturing and the IP. I was like, okay, unfortunately, this is not meant to be. And then someone reached out to me and said, “You know, you should be a part of the show. LaunchBoom is going to be part of it.” I’m thinking, LaunchBoom, oh my gosh. I was really like, “practice, practice, practice!”
What you see there, I just honestly gave it my all. And so I thank you so much for watching it again. I have other people telling me, “Oh, I want to practice my pitch!” And I really am inspired by it. Because what you saw was a girl who was just nervous.
LB: Sometimes nerves are the best motivator!
BE: Yeah, definitely.
LB: When did you first have the idea to create SparkBudz?
BE: It happened when I was a senior in high school. My friends and I shared music in between time, during classes, in break time periods, whenever we had a big test. One of the artists that we loved to listen to was Beyoncé. Beyoncé helped us get through a lot of craziness. Normally we’d bring three earphones, or we’d bring another earphone just in case.
That plan didn’t go well, because when you’re in high school, you will procrastinate a lot. So we only had one pair of earphones the very next day. We didn’t know how we were going to do it. So unfortunately, we tried to share. So three girls, one pair of earphones… the plan sucked.
I thought, let me just go to Target. Let me go to Best Buy, even Amazon. I mean, Amazon sells everything, right? No, they didn’t. So I’m like, “Okay, well, there has to be a solution to the problem that I’m currently facing. So let me just go upstairs and draw something out. Let me get some designs together.” That’s what sparked this. It just came to life, came to fruition.
I really thank God because I never really had a goal in mind. After high school, most of my friends knew what college they wanted to go to, they knew what career goals they had in mind, I really didn’t have anything in mind. And so the fact that I stumbled upon SparkBudz is a blessing, because it allowed me to really express my inner creativity as a person, and I was able to bring it to life. I showed my parents the design, my friends, and they loved it.
I attended Riverside City College for about a year and a half, and I majored in communications. While there, I loved going to college, I enjoyed it, but just something in me was like, “This isn’t it. This is not you. You really need to pursue SparkBudz.” I told my parents, “Look, I can’t really go to school right now because I really want to pursue SparkBudz.” Education is really important in my household—it’s really, really big—so my parents were like, “Look, we’re not agreeing with you on this, but we’re gonna allow you to pursue it for just this year. If things go well, okay, pursue it. If it doesn’t, you have to go back to school.”
Fortunately, things went well. I was able to participate in an accelerator program called Fast Start. I was able to learn my pitch, how to address investors, and how to really get my product out there. My parents said, “Wow, she’s really passionate about SparkBudz. She’s getting a good response online when it comes to showing the prototype to people.” They were like, “Okay, fine, pursue it full-time, but in the future, we want you to go to school.”
I work a lot of odd jobs, because I’m currently saving up for a patent. Before that, it was for manufacturing. There are a lot of ups and downs when it comes down to the consumer electronics industry, but what a lot of entrepreneurs don’t really tell you is that it’s really hard to find a good manufacturer. A lot of manufacturers know that all they have to do is say nice words to an entrepreneur. Unfortunately, I did have a lot of bad prototypes. I saved thousands of dollars just to get a horrible prototype. And you can just imagine the disappointment in my eyes! I was like, “I can’t show this to my target demographic, they’ll think this is ugly.” But I decided I wasn’t going to quit. I’d make a few iterations.
That’s how the zipper design came into fruition. I was thinking, everyone likes to wear jackets, everyone likes to zip up their jacket. Why not have a zipper? There’s no tangles, no drama, and you’re able to just kind of just roll your earphones up and put in your purse, your backpack, what have you. I showed it to a new manufacturer, and they got the concept down. Fortunately, I got the product that you now see. It’s perfect, it’s crisp, it’s great. The sound quality is great.
LB: The idea behind the name, was that something that popped up right away? Did it take time? How did the name come into being?
BE: The original name for SparkBudz was Buddy Beatz. And I came up with it… I want to say a year after, and I liked the name because you know, buddy and then beats, because of music. But I didn’t think about Beats by Dre. I didn’t think about how that would be in competition with him. I was just thinking, “Okay, this is a great name!”
I didn’t go to a legal advisor. I just went on LegalZoom and processed the name. Everything went through, so I thought everything was good. And then a couple weeks later, I checked the mail, and I got a big envelope from a legal firm. I didn’t know what it was for. It was from Dr. Dre’s lawyer, who was like, “You have to change the name of the product, or we’ll go after you.”
I’m out of high school. I’m young. I’m just like, “What is this?” I told my parents; I was crying. I didn’t know if they were going to go after my product. We called the lawyer, who explained that it was in competition with their product and that I couldn’t continue using the name. I didn’t have money to go after Dr. Dre’s lawyers, so I had to change the name.
So I prayed about it. I really wanted a catchy name for my product, and the name SparkBudz just came to me. I trademarked that. I trademarked the design and the charms, too. They’re called SparkCharmz.
LB: That’s awesome. I love the callback to the original name with “budz” in it, so it’s a little bit like “buddies” at the end. That’s fantastic.
BE: Thank you.
LB: When you had a working prototype, who was your first test case? It’s meant to be shared, so who did you test it with?
BE: It was my parents! My parents tested the product out. I have a tall family. When they first tested it out, it was kind of awkward because they were so close. The cord was too short, so I thought, I have to accommodate everyone’s height. So why not make it a little longer? I didn’t know at the time, but the earphones are over six feet apart. Due to what’s going on with the pandemic, we have to be six feet apart. It was perfect timing! I wasn’t planning on doing this. It was supposed to be a little over five feet apart.
LB: Do you remember the first artist or song that you tested the SparkBudz with?
BE: Wow, I tested a lot of songs. I love music. It had to be… I don’t remember, honestly. I want to say Beyoncé, but I know it wasn’t Beyoncé.
LB: Your parents were requesting music, too!
BE: Yeah, they were. But I do know that my mentor, when the product was packaged and ready to go, I gave her a pair. Her parents tried it out. They were watching movies on their phone. They loved it. So I was able to test it through that as well.
LB: Wow, that’s a use we hadn’t even considered—video calls with headphones. It’s really great for that, too.
LB: So, the prototype development process. You mentioned you went through a couple different manufacturers. Can you talk a little bit more about the process?
BE: Honestly, it took a couple years. The first prototype that I got… it was around 2014, 2015. The company is no longer around. I went through a company that designed the prototype for me. When I saw it, I was like, “This is too big. This is not what you guys designed for me.” Unfortunately, they were like, “Well, you signed the contract, the money’s already paid. You’re kind of stuck with what you have.”
I was disappointed. When I was going through the accelerator program, Fast Start, I met a few entrepreneurs who helped connect me with their manufacturer. Again, it was another design firm. Working with him was a horrible, horrible experience. But I’m usually focused on looking beyond the craziness to just get it done. Unfortunately, he was just the middleman. He just took the money. He gave me another shoddy manufacturer, and things didn’t go according to plan.
I knew there had to be another way. This was closer to 2018, 2019; that’s when I went on LinkedIn. I reached out to someone who created a pair of headphones to see if they’d connect me with a good manufacturer. They were kind enough to open the doors for me. That helped me to get familiar with the manufacturing process.
LB: It’s amazing that connections in the industry can pop up like that. Someone going, “Hey, you know, I’ve got a product that does this as well. I know a person.”
BE: Right? Yeah.
LB: How did you get connected with 2 Minute Drill?
BE: I was previously on the show called Entrepreneur Elevator Pitch. The producer of that show is Dave Meltzer, and I was able to keep in contact with him. When I had the product and package ready to go, I told him that I really want to get into retail. That’s when he said, “I really want you on my show. I’m gonna have this show, and you really want to be part of it, because LaunchBoom is gonna be a part of it.”
LB: Can you talk a little bit about what it meant to win that prize and all the resources that come with it?
BE: Winning the bundle really helped me out. I won a cash prize. I didn’t even know that at first, because I was so enthralled by working with LaunchBoom. But the money really helped out with the IP. It helped out with the manufacturing of different designs for the pods. And it really just gave me peace of mind.
Before, I thought that I just wanted to get into retail. The bundle connected me to other entrepreneurs. One of them was Jonathan Boos from Würkin Stiffs. He was featured on Shark Tank a couple seasons ago, and I was able to talk to him. He gave me a lot of good resources and ideas. And again, working with you guys, it’s been crazy.
LB: That feeling of not being alone anymore in the process is unbeatable.
LB: What are your future plans? Is this a one-product boom, or do you have more designs that you want to manufacture and put out there?
BE: I have more designs for the future! I want to get into Bluetooth and [over-the-ear] headphones. I want to have an apparel line for the charms for young girls. I see myself going into Claire’s in a couple of years. This is a great niche for the teenage and tween girls.
It’s a product that’s really needed, especially for this pandemic. You know, everyone’s inside the house. Everyone’s watching movies. And of course, there are Zoom meetings as well. I definitely see us doing really, really well.
LB: A couple of fun music questions, since SparkBudz was built out of the idea of sharing music! Who are three artists that you’ve got on repeat right now?
BE: I like listening to 80s and 90s R&B. Aaliyah, she’s one of them. Biggie Smalls, Chaka Khan. I know, I’m young. So it’s like, why? I grew up on a lot of 80s and 90s R&B. So that’s the kind of music I listen to.
LB: Who’s an artist that you’ve gotten into recently?
BE: Most of the newer artists I listen to are a little well-known, but it’s new for me. I have to say, one of the artists is The Weeknd. He did a really good performance at the Super Bowl. I think it was creative. And another artist that I just downloaded is Frank Ocean. I just heard a song on the radio called “Lonely”. So those are the two new artists that, even though they’re kind of well-known, are still new to me.
LB: Is there anything that we didn’t ask about that you think is important to your story?
BE: I think it’s important to really listen to young entrepreneurs, especially young girls. I feel like this business, even though it’s starting to grow into a female-dominated industry, I feel like it’s still a little more male-dominated. It’s cool to be an entrepreneur, it’s cool to be an inventor. And even though it has ups and downs and challenges, you never know what can happen when you do that first step. And that first step can be drawing something on a four-by-five index card, or even designing your first prototype with a jar of putty. As long as after the first step we keep going, keep moving.
You know, with me, I’m a minority. I’m a female, and I’m in a male-dominated space, so I did get a lot of naysayers but I still kept going. I still kept pushing and going and moving. I want to let a lot of young girls know that if you have an idea, don’t let it just stay stagnant in your heart. The world needs to know your idea. We live in a world of opportunity where it doesn’t take long for you to become a millionaire. You can definitely be a millionaire overnight using the internet, so don’t allow the limitations of people’s opinions stop you. Just keep going and you never know where you can be headed.
I feel like a lot of young women, they feel like the only claim to fame is to be a reality star, a model, or an actress. I feel like those are three main things I hear all the time. You can be a scientist, you can be a doctor, you can be a lawyer! You know, it’s cool to be smart. It’s definitely cool to be smart. Don’t allow people’s ideas to tell you otherwise, because that’s not the case.
I used to model and I always felt like that was it for me, because I’m tall. I love fashion, I love to be part of people’s fashion shows. And at the end of the day, I didn’t feel like I was my own boss. I felt like I was someone’s Barbie doll. Because it was just like, okay, you have to have your hair like this! Now you have to have your hair like that! You have to wear this kind of clothes! I don’t want to do that.
So I want girls to realize that it’s cool to experience life. But don’t allow people’s opinions to just tell you, okay, you’re good for one thing. I want girls to realize—and guys too, but mostly females—to realize that there’s so many other women in history that have paved the way for us. One of the women that paved the way for me is Madam CJ Walker. She walked so I could run. Even though her products are in the haircare industry, she was a young black millionaire in the 1900s, where being a female millionaire was unheard of.
I want girls to realize that their history is so rich, and it’s so wonderful. You just have to really realize that there are so many other women that have really paved the way and have come so far.
LB: Other than Madam CJ Walker, who are some other female role models that you really look up to and draw inspiration from?
BE: My mom is one of them. She is very creative. She dabbled in entrepreneurship. She stopped and sacrificed her dreams for mine. I definitely respect that. Most people are not like that with their kids. They’re like, “Okay, that’s a good idea, step aside.” But with my mom, she was like, “Okay, even though school is important, I don’t want you to have the what-ifs.” She really inspired me, because she not only sacrificed her product, she supported me along the way. She still does give me advice and help me out with phone meetings. I’m not sure if you heard her in the background when I won, but she was the lady yelling in the back. That was her.
Another lady that has really inspired me is my grandma. Unfortunately, she’s not with us now. I will be starting a nonprofit in her honor called Catherine’s Heart. That nonprofit is going to be focused on helping young girls, mentoring and helping them out for years to come. My grandma, she was all about that.
LB: We can’t wait to see where SparkBudz goes!