WOODCHUCKcase: Locals Sell Made in America - WBAY

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WOODCHUCKcase: Locals Sell Made in America


A trip to the grocery store is meant to satisfy our taste buds.

Tucked away in aisle two of Dick's Family Foods in Wrightstown, you'll find a little hometown flavor.

Hometown flavor for your phone.

"I don't think too many people knew exactly what it's all about," a clerk at Dick's said.

But just ask Ben Vandenwymelenberg and Kevin Groenjes.

Vandenwymelenberg, a Wrightstown native, and Groenjes from Minnesota are new college graduates from the University of Minnesota.

Their great idea started "a little over a year-and-a-half ago drinking a beer in the architecture studio," Vandenwymelenberg recalls.

That beer and idea has turned into a full-fledged business selling the WOODCHUCKcase.

Click here for the WOODCHUCKcase website.

They're wood veneer covers for iPhones, iPads and everything in between.

"I think we'd ultimately like to be known as trail blazers," Groenjes said.

Their mission: Bringing manufacturing and jobs back to the U.S.

"It's about supporting those ideals," Vandenwymelenberg said. "And yea, you could absolutely go get a $5 case at Ebay that was made in China, totally could do that. And that's where we differ ourselves. We're real wood. We're making it from recycled materials, and it's about something more than cell phone cases."

The prototypes for each WOODCHUCKcase originates in Manitowoc.

From the initial drawings at KNM LLC to crafting the product itself inside KNM's lakeshore facilities, the process not only carves a business but a philosophy.

Each case is marked "Made in the U.S.A."

"Whenever somebody wants to manufacture something in the U.S., we always give it our best shot," KNM President Kevin Krueger said.

The wood for WOODCHUCKcase products ships from Kentucky.

The products are packaged, printed and shipped in Minneapolis.

It's a process uniquely American in an industry that's opting for cheaper overseas options.

"That's a story we're willing to stand behind," Groenjes and Vandenwymelenberg agreed. "We're willing to tell any customer. And if you're not willing to put down a couple extra dollars to bring jobs back to the states, that's your own choice."

The startup loans from friends and family, the guys in the early 20s, say will eventually be paid off.

WOODCHUCKcase products are selling in about 300 college bookstores, along with Best Buy online and their own website too.

Vandenwymelenberg and Groenjes say they're selling about 1,000 cell phone cases a week.

And they say they're negotiating to sell inside Best Buy and Target stores, too.

"We're living like college students because we know how to," the two joked. "And we're fine with it until WOODCHUCKcase gets off the ground to where we ultimately want it to be."

Where that is isn't measured in numbers but in the letters inscribed.

"If every single case in big box retailers was made in the U.S.A. in two years, OK then maybe we did our job."

The two are working to expand their line.

WOODCHUCKcase covers for cell phones cell between $30 and $80 depending on the type of wood.

Part of their mission also targets the outdoors.

The company partners with environmental organizations which receive some of the profits.

Vandenwymelenberg's family owns Dick's Family Foods in Wrightstown.

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