Creating an Entrepreneur: A Profile of Jason Lucash

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Creating an Entrepreneur: A Profile of Jason Lucash

Lucash as a high school senior

Lucash as a high school senior

Lucash as a high school senior

Lucash as a high school senior

Shilpa Rao, Editor

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Jason Lucash Headshot Original

Lucash today

Maybe he didn’t obtain top grades or a perfect SAT score. Maybe he didn’t get accepted to UC Davis on his first try. But Jason Lucash had something else – an entrepreneurial spirit – that led to his success.

The 2002 San Ramon Valley High School graduate is the founder and a partner at OrigAudio, a consumer electronics company now worth several million dollars that has won numerous awards.

Lucash, 31, attended Sycamore Valley Elementary School from 1993-1995 and Charlotte Wood Middle School from 1995-1998. From 1998-2002, he attended San Ramon. He says he was a decent student in high school.

“I think my GPA was a 3.5, which was pretty good back in the day,” he says, “though now many kids get above 4.0s.” He had an affinity for math and “numbers-based” classes but describes himself as a

“terrible” writer and cites his SAT scores – 760 on math but 400-and-something on writing. Outside of the classroom, he was involved in sports such as football and track-and-field.

Living in Danville has shaped Lucash’s desire to be an entrepreneur and has taught him a lot about being in business. His first venture was a candy stand that he ran in elementary school. His parents lived on “prime real estate” near his school, and he realized he could benefit from his classmates’ love for candy. So, he purchased candy from Safeway and Costco and marked it up and sold it, making as much as $700 as a fourth-grader, he said on his website, http://www.jasonlucash.com/#!about/c1enr.

He says on the website that the primary reason the candy stand flourished was its location, and he emphasizes that “it’s all about location, location, location.”

In high school, Lucash had a variety of odd jobs around Danville: He worked as a golf cart boy at the Crow Canyon Country Club for three years and ran a Town of Danville summer camp for one year. While he made a decent income, Lucash learned that he was the type of person who cared more about enjoying a job than pursuing one just because it was lucrative.

“I’ve always had fun jobs,” he explained. “For me, it’s more important to have a job that is entertaining and not make as much than to have a job that I hate but make more.” But more than anything, these jobs ultimately taught Lucash that he wanted to be his own boss and work for himself.

It took Lucash three tries to be admitted to UC Davis after high school (he thinks that this is because his grades weren’t good enough), but he is glad he persisted. He majored in managerial economics and took Jacque Bowman’s economics class, which furthered his desire to go into business because, as San Ramon High Wolfprint reporter Amanda Nguyen said in a 2010 story, “economics allowed him to transform his dream into reality.” In February 2014, Lucash was named UC Davis’ “Young Alumnus of the Year.”

Lucash says that his experiences in college outside class were equally influential in teaching him about business. He landed an internship with the Oakland A’s in which he learned about sports marketing, a field he thought he wanted to pursue.

Out of college, Lucash landed a job at JanSport where he worked in marketing and promotions. He worked closely with JanSport founder Skip Yowell, who he describes as a “mentor.” At JanSport, Lucash learned to take his business seriously but not to take himself too seriously.

Lucash and partner Mike Szymczak came up with the idea for their initial product while working at JanSport. The two traveled often and were sick of using bulky speakers, so they thought of creating speakers that could fold for easy transport and eventually named the product Fold N’ Play. Thus, OrigAudio was born. The company was initially funded with $10,000 Lucash borrowed from his mom and other money he and Szymczak had from prior jobs. Lucash says the process of starting a company today is radically different than what it was when he started his company.

“Now, a lot of people launch their brands and products on Kickstarter, Indiegogo and other crowdfunding sites like that,” he says, “but five years ago, that didn’t exist. We were scrappy – we had to try and get friends to help spread the word.”

According to entrepreneur.com, the company got its big break when U.S. Marines ordered 50,000 speakers from the OrigAudio website.

Lucash and OrigAudio have won numerous awards. In 2009, OrigAudio’s Fold N’ Play speaker was chosen to be part of Time Magazine’s 50 Best Inventions of the Year; in 2012, Lucash was selected as Entrepreneur Magazine‘s Entrepreneur of the Year; in 2013, OrigAudio made Inc’s list of 500 Fastest Growing Companies.

Lucash has been on the television shopping network QVC approximately 20 times, which he describes as an exciting but stressful experience because “you only have eight minutes to sell so you’re scrambling. You also never know what time you’re going to be put on until 48 hours before. You can get placed on at prime time at 8 at night or 5 in the morning or midday.”

Lucash gained publicity on ABC’s TV show Shark Tank, on which aspiring entrepreneurs pitch their companies to a panel of multi-millionaire and billionaire investors (“sharks”) who decide whether to invest in them. For Lucash, getting on Shark Tank was simple: Shark Tank producers saw OrigAudio’s name on the Time Magazine list and invited Szymczak and him to participate on the show.

To prepare for Shark Tank, Lucash and Szymczak watched every episode from the previous season and came up with answers to questions the sharks had asked previous contestants. Lucash describes the experience as “nerve-wracking” but also “kind of cool.” He says, “It was instant validation from multi-billionaires that your ideas aren’t so crazy.”

On the episode, Lucash and Szymczak were offered deals by four sharks but ultimately agreed to one proposed by Robert Herjavec; in real life, however, the deal fell through. The rule on Shark Tank is that the deal made on the show does not go into effect until the episode airs. Lucash and Szymczak filmed in October and their episode aired in May.

“During those months, we didn’t just sit around waiting for our episode to air,” Lucash says. “We kept doing what we did and grew the company from almost a million dollar to a two million dollar company.” So when Herjavec sent them paperwork for the deal, Lucash and Szymczak chose not to take it. They do not regret the decision. Lucash explains: “From an entrepreneur’s perspective, you want to hold on to equity for as long as possible because once you give it away, it is very, very hard to get it back.”

Currently, OrigAudio is based out of Orange County and has 14 employees. Initially retail-heavy, Origaudio was sold in stores such as Francesca’s, Nordstrom, Bed, Bath & Beyond and Urban Outfitters. Now OrigAudio focuses more on online retail and has a large percentage of sales that come from its own website and from Amazon, with which it partners. Lucash describes the company’s niche as being “portable and affordable,” and the company sells products in 60 different countries. Lucash sums up the company with the fish and pond analogy: “We’re that cool-looking fish with an afro. When people notice us, they ask ‘What fish is that?’”

OrigAudio has worked with the nonprofit Music National Service, play-tool therapy for children with cancer Gabe’s Chemo Duck, and the local Orange County food bank.

“I think it’s really important to give back,” Lucash said. “For us, it’s been very important to have a social cause and campaign behind our business.” He said that OrigAudio also works to be eco-friendly.

OrigAudio sells a variety of consumer electronic products, such as speakers and chargers that carry names such as “Pieladium,” “Designears,” and “Cubicool.”

On Shark Tank, Lucash and Szymczak pitched The Rock-It, a device that allows one to turn most any object into a speaker. Lucash describes his favorite product as the Bumpster, a Bluetooth speaker with a claimed battery life of more than 10 hours. “I travel a lot. So if I’m on the beach in Thailand, I can use it. Also, if I’m sitting at my desk I can use it. I play a lot of golf; the speaker fits perfectly in a golf cart.”

OrigAudio releases four to five products each year because, as Lucash explains, “being in technology and the states that we are in make it crucial to stay ahead of the game.”

Lucash says he loves owning his own business because it allows him to “be his own boss.”

“If I don’t feel like working a certain day, I don’t have to work,” he says. “If I want to bring my dog with me to my office, I can. If I want to wear shorts and flip flops every day, I can.”

Eventually, Lucash and Szymczak plan to sell OrigAudio; the two have already started planning a new company. “I’m an entrepreneur,” Lucash says. “If I sold this thing, I wouldn’t just sit around and do nothing all day. I like working, so I’d work on coming up with the next big thing.”

In his spare time,  Lucash spends a significant amount of time lecturing high school students, college students and professionals on the art of entrepreneurship. He has done a significant amount of work with Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) and DECA, two business-related organizations for high school students. He also has written a series of articles for Entrepreneur Magazine’s column “The Grind”.

Lucash advises those interested in entrepreneurship to not be deterred by the thought of failure and to pursue their ideas.

“So many people come up with great and crazy ideas on a daily basis, but very few act on those ideas and make their dreams a reality,” he said. “The best dreams spark the best businesses, so go and make your dreams a reality.”

 

 

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