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TheStreet Open House

Apple Fashion Accessories A Boon for Small Businesses

But it didn't come without challenges. Odunsi says while the product itself was ready to go to market a year ago, the company wasn't satisfied with its online ordering system, which needed to be revamped to allow for essentially custom building of cases.

"We had to develop a lot of things in house," says Odunsi, who also plans to launch an iPhone case.

Going forward, Odunsi has bigger plans for his product. While he plans to continue to sell direct to retail, he sees an opportunity in private labeling and is looking to market the cases to universities, businesses and other retailers for resale.

"We see opportunity everywhere for this because of the uniqueness of the product. We can print any design on it that can match anything. We do have some standard designs that go well with the leather products," he says. "We are just starting out to try and find out the extent of how far we can take this."

3. Create a strong brand.

Online boutique Emily Ley, based in Tampa, specializes in office products and paper goods for women. Owner and creative director Emily Ley says adding monogrammed iPhone cases to her product line was a natural extension of her brand.

Monograms represent "a beautiful Southern tradition" that celebrates family, Ley says, and customers are fiercely proud of their individualized cases, making for great brand awareness and word-of-mouth business.

"Where big-box brands that were simply 'selling products' used to thrive, boutique brands with authentic brand messaging and amazing brand loyalty are becoming key players," says Ley, who sells her merchandise on Etsy.

Ley says small accessory retailers also need to give great customer service to keep loyal customers.

"Consumers are buying 'the why' more than 'the what'. They want to not only believe in your product, they want to believe in you and what you stand for," Ley adds. "We pay 100% attention to developing brand loyalty, interacting with our consumers and delivering a remarkable client experience. By investing our time and energies into our customers, we grow our base and develop relationships with them. That kind of experience is viral."

-- Written by Laurie Kulikowski in New York.

To contact Laurie Kulikowski, send an email to: Laurie.Kulikowski@thestreet.com.

>To submit a news tip, email: tips@thestreet.com.

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