Showered with Success

The 28-year-old founder and CEO of FRESHeTECH is a Rollins grad whose Orlando-based company is gaining national attention.

Photo by Scott Cook Photo by Scott Cook

 

A typical week might see Adam Schwartz ’10 ’12MBA jetting off to Walmart headquarters or hopping a flight to check on his factories in China.

But sandwiched somewhere in the hectic pace of running FRESHeTECH—a multimillion-dollar startup that specializes in wireless earbuds, waterproof speakers, and other niche accessories—he always finds time for a weekly tennis match on campus with business professor Allen Kupetz, Rollins’ entrepreneur-in-residence and co-founder of prominent early stage venture fund VenVelo.

“He’s a very good sounding board for me, as someone who did his own entrepreneurial thing,” Schwartz says. “I’ll sit down and say, ‘Hey this just happened. What should I do?’ It’s nice to have someone who has a lot of experience and can relate to what’s going on.”

Schwartz founded two mobile technology companies while earning his MBA at Rollins’ Crummer Graduate School of Business, then launched FRESHeTECH a year after graduation. Today, more than 1,000 stores carry his products, including Walmart, Sam’s Club, Hobby Lobby, TJ Maxx, and Fry’s Electronics.

In 2016, FRESHeTECH was featured on Entrepreneur magazine’s Entrepreneur360 list. The same year, Schwartz made Forbes’ 30 Under 30 manufacturing list and was named a CEO of the Year by the Orlando Business Journal.

On a recent evening, right after closing shop at his downtown office, Schwartz took time to catch up with his alma mater.

Photo by Scott Cook Photo by Scott Cook

Where’d your independent spirit come from? “I knew from a young age I’d try to run my own business. Whether it worked or not, I assumed I’d try.”

How did Rollins prepare you for success as an entrepreneur? “At Crummer, I learned a lot about the intellectual side of competitive advantage, and an elevator-pitch competition even led to an inside connection who gave me advice on how to pitch Walmart. As an undergrad, classes like political science and international relations helped me in sales more than anything else—understanding relationships on a macro and micro level.”

Where’d you get the idea for FRESHeTECH? “Back when everyone was listening to Pandora, I’d be in the shower and a song would come on that I wanted to skip. Obviously, it was a pain to get out and hit that skip button on my cell phone. So I started trying to answer the question, ‘How do I solve listening to music in the shower?’ Eventually, we developed a speaker that gives you the freedom to play music, skip songs, adjust volume, and answer phone calls.”

How are sales? “Every year we’ve existed, we’ve doubled in size. We’re growing organically too—entirely internally funded.”

Photo by Scott Cook Photo by Scott Cook

Why is global citizenship important to you? “FRESHeTECH is able to do things that companies our size cannot, and that’s because of the relationships we have overseas. The most valuable asset we have is our relationship with our factories in China. We live and die by them, and they live and die by us.”

How has the proliferation of wireless technology affected your business? “Apple launching the AirPod and removing the audio jack has helped us more than any other development in the industry. Since they’ve done that, Bluetooth earbuds have become more mainstream and our biggest seller. The largest growth market in that area is now middle-aged mothers, and that aligns with our retailers’ core demographics.”

Good Morning America recently featured your company. Did that provide a boost? “After the segment aired, we sold 26,000 pairs of original-style earbuds in 12 hours. It just so happened we were in Vegas for the consumer electronics show, so we did some celebrating.”

Photo by Scott Cook Photo by Scott Cook

What’s one of the biggest lessons you’ve learned in business?“Oftentimes, to the retailer, the product is secondary to being a vendor they really want to work with. The question becomes, how can you make the buyer’s job easier? There are a lot of people with great products, but not a lot of people also have the infrastructure to support retailers through things like delivery, stocking, and investing in displays. We can do all of that.”

Have you found Orlando to be fertile ground for startups? “My simple answer to that is yes. We hire a lot of recent college grads, and there’s obviously a surplus of really good talent here. I have 12 employees, and every one of them is from Rollins or UCF—a few are even current students.”

Any advice to budding entrepreneurs? “Go find a small business where you can get exposure to every aspect, with a CEO who cares. Go find that job and you’ll get more experience than you can imagine in how a business works. Also, as a student, take advantage of those networking events.”

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