October 17th, 2011
03:39 AM GMT
New York (CNN) – Can Apple make you rich? That is what John Vons hopes.
An architect by professional, Vons was laid off three years ago. Frustrated and running out of options Vons decided he needed to reinvent himself. Inspired by the design and popularity of Apple's products, Vons created an iPhone accessory he calls the yofo. It is a small suction device that allows you to cradle the iphone on your shoulder or stick it on a surface to more easily watch content.
As he and his partner, Genie, made the rounds to secure funding, the feedback was good, but would-be backers shied away due to the shaky economy. A friend finally came up with enough to pay for the first batch, but there is little left over for marketing.
"I am usually a quiet, reserved guy who sits and designs on his own,” Vons said.
But Vons knows he doesn't have a choice. He’s made 10,000 of these gadgets with the hope – and the prayer – that they sell.
A few people he approached on line backed away suspiciously (hey this is New York!) but generally people were receptive. Even if they don't ultimately buy the product, I think people admire the courage and sacrifice it takes to try and claw out of the ranks of the long-term unemployed.
And there is sacrifice. To conserve cash, John and Genie say they had to give up their New York apartments and moved in with her parents in Alabama. They live over the family's funeral home and John smiles as he explains how he helps Genie's Dad drive the hearse and "move the dead people around.”
Is the yofo going to make John Vons rich? Ten years ago the answer would have been no. But the power of the internet is a game changer. Yofo has no retail presence and no marketing budget but it does have a website and these days that is all you really need to get started.
The other powerful force at work is the huge economy that now swirls around Apple products. From apps to accessories to doctors who fix busted phones, entrepreneurs are figuring out a way to tap into Apple's cool.
If Vons succeeds in grabbing only a slice of the millions of customers who will purchase an iPhones 4S, he will be on his way to a new course for his life.
Though I don't know him personally, watching him work the New York lines of customers for the new iPhone 4S, I can't help but wish him well.
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