Early in his life, Michael Kane, 30, knew he didn't want to sit behind a desk, working "for the man."
Even though his late father, Barry Kane, had a steady job as a postal worker, and his mom, Mary Ellen, is a registered nurse at Westmoreland Hospital, Mr. Kane didn't see a "regular job" in his future.
"I never wanted a typical job. I even started my lawn care business when I was still in high school," he said.
That business was the start of his entrepreneurial career.
Now CEO of cellhelmet, Mr. Kane was recently recognized with the Gold Medal Award in Telecommunication at the Invention and New Product Exposition 2013 trade show for the product.
The cellhelmet is a case to protect iPhones and iPods.
Mr. Kane of Greensburg was also a presenter at the trade show held in June at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center.
"It was nice to win an award for our work," he said.
It wasn't the first time he was in the limelight. Mr. Kane and his partner, Dave Artuso, also from Greensburg, appeared on ABC's "Shark Tank" in March.
"That was such a great experience. We didn't get any investors from the show, but it kicked down a lot of doors for us," he said.
After Mr. Kane graduated with a degree in marketing management from the University of Pittsburgh in 2005, he worked full time in his lawn care company. In 2008, Mr. Kane and his longtime friend, Mr. Artuso, decided to start a company selling cell phone accessories.
"I needed something new and fresh. I kept the lawn care business for another year until we were off the ground," he said.
The two kicked around names, pairing a mascot with a technical word. The result was cellpig.
"Believe me, we tried every match up and then it had to be available. It wasn't easy to find a name that wasn't already used," Mr. Kane said.
After a few years in the business, Mr. Kane said they realized they wanted to narrow down their offerings.
"Then we thought, 'Let's brand our own accessory.' There are hundreds of accessories out there, so let's get our own," Mr. Kane said.
They came up with cellhelmet in early 2012, a case that covers and protects iPhones and iPods. "We had no experience in manufacturing, so we had to learn a lot," Mr. Kane said.
The partners wanted to keep production of cellhelmet local and found Sunstar Inc., located in Latrobe. The product is sold online and at most local Verizon retail stores thanks to their two new investors, David Aldridge and Justin Goehring, Verizon store owners.
Mr. Aldridge and Mr. Goehring, both of Pine, became investors right before the "Shark Tank" appearance.
Their newest product, Repair-in-a-Box, is also sold in Verizon stores; it is an empty box.
"If you break your phone, you mail it in this box and we fix it and mail it back within three days. We guarantee to fix any phone," he said. The product does away with the need for phone insurance, he said.
As the business has grown in the past year, the company is moving its headquarters and repair facility to a larger location in Pine.
Kathleen Ganster, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.