Gino Mazzarella has always had his eyes on the prize, even though he’s hit some road bumps along the way. The Stevens Institute of Technology senior recalled his first foray into the business world, when the manufacturers of Little Trees air fresheners threatened to sue him after a logo on his line of lacrosse jerseys bore too close a resemblance to the iconic car products.
Still, Mazzarella wasn’t discouraged, and is now using Hoboken as a jump-off for his newest venture, www.AwesomeCables.com. The site operates as a retail shop for innovative and offbeat iPhone accessories.
Mazzarella says his products appeal to users who find Apple’s own trimmings boring or frustrating.
“I’ve had an iPhone since it first came out, the very first generation, and it comes with this boring white cable that’s usually too short to reach anything further than a very close outlet,” he said. “But when you go into the store to look at their additional accessories, they’re all white too. There’s no flavor.”
“The goal is to cover the full spectrum of iPhone products.” – Gino Mazzarella
“The goal is to cover the full spectrum of iPhone products,” he said. “If you want to buy something that’s what is known as MFI (made for iPhone) or something that’s a more original project that they’re not okay with for some reason, you have that choice.”
Likewise, Mazzarella said he wants to maintain an inventory that offers products at a variety of prices.
“If you want to pick up a cable that costs six dollars, you can. And if you want to get a serious quality cable that’s $35, you can do that as well,” he said.
Mazzarella said he understands why someone would be wary of buying something Apple hasn’t endorsed. He worked a warranty into AwesomeCables’ business plan so users can buy anything they like without sacrificing peace of mind.
“People are a bit worried about that, so what we do is offer a full warranty on our products,” he said. “We take that very seriously, we don’t want to sell people B-level products.”
When he began searching out products to feature on AwesomeCables, Mazzarella looked far and wide, from products built by established suppliers like Belkin to lesser known brands he came across on Kickstarter.
For instance, the Recoil, an accessory that keeps your cables organized and neatly wrapped, was featured on Kickstarter earlier this year and hasn’t hit many retail shelves yet. Mazzarella said that by selling such products on AwesomeCables, he hopes to form a niche market.
“My Recoil hasn’t left my backpack since I got it. It’s one of the best designed accessories I’ve ever seen, and it’s not that easy to find,” he said. “AwesomeCables is one of the places you can buy it.”
And for iPhone users concerned with the durability of the standard rubber products, AwesomeCables offers braided cables, which are encased in a durable nylon wrapping rather than the vulnerable rubber casings which protect normal cables. The braids come in a variety of colors.
Mazzarella said he will soon offer charity-based options as well, such as pink cables for breast cancer awareness and camouflage cables that would benefit veterans’ groups.
Mazzarella originally hails from Freehold, where he became interested in the crossroads of technology and business at a young age. When he began studying at Stevens Tech, he said, Hoboken became a natural starting point for his new business, combining proximity to the city with a small-town feel where he could establish contacts and work with local business owners.
“The best thing about being in this area is all the contacts that I’ve been able to make, going into New York to talk to people and then just walking up and down Washington Street talking to people who own cell phone or technology stores,” he said. “It’s been a great town to start a business.”
Mazzarella has received considerable assistance from his peers and professors at Stevens as well, he said.
“Being at Stevens, there are a lot of resources that I could pull from,” he said. “My professors who were interested in what I was doing have helped me set up meetings, introduced me to people who might be able to help out, and were able to give me good advice in general.”
Dean DeChiaro may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org