A 22-year-old Carmel resident created a product that will soon be in 3,055 Walmart stores across the nation, including in Fishers and Noblesville.
Caitie Gehlhausen, a Hamilton Heights High School graduate, was double majoring in entrepreneurship and finance at High Point University in North Carolina when she noticed her friends either had a credit card holder or a phone grip on the back of their smartphones, but not both.
“I looked online to see if there was a product that combined the two, and, to my surprise, there was nothing out there. So, that’s when I decided I was going to create Socket Lock-it,” Gehlhausen said.
Socket Lock-it combines the two functions. Gehlhausen always wanted to start a business but wasn’t sure what that would be until she saw the unmet need. She received a patent for the product and launched it in March 2019.
In 2020, Gehlhausen saw Walmart was conducting an open call for product pitches, and she applied in the spring. In July, she received an email from Walmart inviting her to pitch the product to the company.
“I was super excited about that,” Gehlhausen said. “And for the open call, I had talked to a lot of people on the buying or selling side of Walmart, figuring out what they looked for (in a pitch) and what questions they asked, and everyone told me to expect the same three things. They would probably not say yes or no on the spot. If they did say yes, they would likely trial-run the product in 50 to 100 stores to start out, and third, it would be 10 months or more before I would see it on the shelves.”
That advice didn’t turn out to be true for Gehlhausen.
“So, that’s what I was mentally preparing for going in, but the response was well beyond any of my expectations,” she said. “They told me yes on the spot and said they wanted me in nearly all stores by April 5. This was in October (2020). So, I had four months to ramp up inventory to fulfill an order for 3,055 stores.”
Gehlhausen’s product is available in 3,055 stores. Walmart has already committed to continuing the product in at least 1,900 of its stores in June. Socket Lock-it retails for $4.88.
Gehlhausen said she is looking to expand the business and wants to be more innovative with the product.
“Now that we are operating and actually selling in Walmart stores, we are looking to create a budget for product development so we can keep bringing out new, fun items,” she said.