Shelley WETZEL: Inventor of jang*go

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  • Tell us something about yourself, your background

I have been an entrepreneur most of my career, 20+ years, having been self-employed with two marketing agencies. The second time it included marketing and planning conferences and trade shows across the U.S., from a few hundred to 1,000 attendees.

With an upbringing of a mother who was an educator, she instilled in me the need for education, whether going to class or learning something new every day; with her encouragement, I obtained my M.B.A. in marketing working at Salisbury University on the eastern shore of Maryland.

I have lived in many places across the U.S., mainly due to my love of exploring new places and wanting to experience different cultures. Sometimes I wonder if I will ever settle down, but it leads to continual learning about others and keeping an open mind wherever I am living. That includes a love of travel, having been overseas, especially in 2019, enjoying Florence, Italy with friends, and then going back to the U.K. for a week.

Currently, I am the Director of Marketing and Digital Strategy at my alma mater, Shepherd University, in W.V.  I love my work; even though I am working from home since COVID-19 hit, but I am used to being in my own space. Like many of us now, I accomplish more work from home, yet I miss the campus life.

  • Tell us about the product you invented with a brief explanation:

Jang*go, the only mobile stand that allows you to use on a flat surface, suspend it under/side of a cabinet, against the wall, extend it out and use it as the ultimate selfie stick, and even videotape/photograph with one hand. With a mounting ring attached to the back of your phone/tablet (directly or a case), it connects like a socket to the top round arm part of jang*go. You can rotate it to be horizontal or vertical, and it doesn’t come off, even when you turn jang*go upside down for placement under a cabinet using the mounting puck provided in the package.

  • How/Why did you start inventing. What set you off?

My invention started with my living in an apartment with a small galley kitchen with little countertop space; I was using my tablet a lot for cooking and baking, looking up recipes, and watching videos, but there wasn’t a convenient way to prop up the tablet to use it. I thought it would be a cool idea if I could suspend my tablet from under the kitchen cabinet, toward me, and then put it back under the cabinet. That was the start of jang*go. 

  • How did you get from idea to finished product?

The clincher of moving forward on this idea – of which I have many – was having dinner with girlfriends; I described my vision, and my best friend said it was brilliant! If she hadn’t told me that, I don’t think I would have started on my journey; at a local health fair, she met and introduced me to an industrial engineer. He and I worked for several months designing the original design of jang*go, and he wrote the patent! I knew that was rare, but I had a tight budget, only utilizing funds I made from my marketing agency work. 

He had shown me his previous work of obtaining patents from his writing and illustrations. I had him create and write the patent and the second one. My patent didn’t need any changes after submitting it in January 2011; the patent approval occurred in summer 2013! I have one utility patent and waiting on a second one. 

After several design changes and prototypes, I launched jang*go in 2016, from having 100 products machined from a firm near Raleigh, NC. I couldn’t afford the molds and full production in China. I have sold it on Etsy and given most away to friends and colleagues to become my ambassadors across the U.S. I won a “Shark Tank” type of competition, called the “Gull Cage” at Salisbury University, where I used to work for $30,000 and continued to pitch at competitions, learning more of what was needed and meeting entrepreneurs along the way. I didn’t win anymore, but it was worth the experience.

  • Let us know of useful resources that helped you i.e. Books, websites, software etc

Local entrepreneurs, colleges with business schools, mentors, coaches, friends, LinkedIn, CES (Consumer Technology Association), SBA, Entrepreneurship organizations in your state/county/city; Women Business groups; chamber of commerce

  • Where are you with your product? 

My product was on the shelf for a couple of years due to funding moving it forward and needing a full-time job to pay the bills; the pandemic has further curtailed my movement in getting to market. I am looking to license jang*go in niche markets, including:

  1. Medical supplies (humans and pets)
  2. RV/camping
  3. Small business POS
  4. Musical Supplies
--End of Interview--
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