At OtterBox, the Only Constant Is Change

For a company that’s experienced incredible growth in revenue, staff, real estate and product offerings, there’s a good reason this is the company mantra.


FedEx Access last visited OtterBox®, maker of premium protective cases for mobile technology, in 2011. At that time, the company was experiencing 3,000% annual revenue growth and checking in at No. 70 on Inc. magazine’s list of fastest-growing companies.

Connecting with OtterBox again this fall, it’s clear the company is still on a blazing pace for growth — and continuing to serve as a vibrant community pillar of Fort Collins, Colo.

Ready, set, go!

On Sept. 10, 2013, when Apple unveiled two new industry-altering smartphones, OtterBox ― producer of the No. 1–selling case for smartphones in the U.S.* ― was ready. For the iPhone® 5s, with its James Bond–like Touch ID biometric fingerprint scanner, OtterBox had cases immediately available in its Defender Series®, Commuter Series®, Reflex Series® and Prefix Series®.

“Every Apple launch means new technologies that enhance the iPhone user experience and, at the same time, create challenges for our products to evolve,” says OtterBox CEO Brian Thomas. “We have very talented design and engineering teams working hard to anticipate new technologies and determine the most elegant solutions for our cases.”

“We always expect a flurry of activity around an Apple launch,” says Kristen Tatti, OtterBox public relations specialist. “We gear up for it companywide. We don’t get any advance information about what’s coming. We have to follow the rumors circulating like everyone else. And we have to have a very dynamic supply chain and allies like FedEx so we can have our products on the shelf as close to launch as possible.”

Growing by leaps and bounds

In August, OtterBox was once again ranked as one of the fastest-growing companies in the U.S. by the Inc. 500, coming in at No. 416. Produced by Inc. magazine, the Inc. 500 ranks the country’s fastest-growing privately held firms based on three-year revenue growth.

2013 marks the fourth time OtterBox has landed on the Inc. 500 and its sixth time on the Inc. 5000. In 2012, OtterBox reported revenue of more than $573 million (up from $168.9 million in 2010). Founder and chairman Curt Richardson expects OtterBox to break the $1 billion mark by the end of 2013.

In addition, Forbes magazine ranked OtterBox No. 10 out of 100 on its 2013 “America’s Most Promising Companies” list. OtterBox was the only company in the consumer durable goods category, the third largest by revenue and seventh largest by employment.

However, the most meaningful list the company made was the one closest to home: At the Mercury 100 event in Fort Collins, Colo., OtterBox topped the ranking of fastest-growing private companies in Northern Colorado.

“For us, it’s all about creating jobs in Northern Colorado and creating a positive legacy in the community,” Thomas says. OtterBox now employs more than 600 people in the area, with more to come: The company recently broke ground on a new research and development building close to the headquarters, and opened a new distribution center in Frederick, Colo., to serve its global operations.

“There’s a residual effect from having OtterBox in Fort Collins. It’s not just that we’re employing people. It’s also that our employees are spending money in the community. We’re building buildings, which keeps our local construction companies busy. And we’re bringing in money from outside and reinvesting it locally. It’s all about giving back,” Tatti says.

In addition to organic growth, OtterBox made two significant acquisitions that expanded its product portfolio. In November 2012, OtterBox acquired Wrapsol, based in Canton, Mass. Wrapsol manufactured a product line OtterBox didn’t offer: a complete collection of premium screen protectors for smartphones and tablets. OtterBox continued to develop the product line, fully integrated it into their other accessory offerings, and rebranded it Clearly ProtectedTM. Then in May 2013, OtterBox acquired rival LifeProof®, based in San Diego. LifeProof’s extremely durable cases can withstand water, dirt, snow and shock. “The joining of OtterBox and LifeProof is a way to create more value for our customers than we ever could have generated while operating individually,” Thomas says.

To reach even greater worldwide recognition, Thomas believes OtterBox must continue to diversify its product portfolio to attract a wider audience, integrate technology into its products to satisfy ever-growing customer demand, and act as a trusted partner to original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to help them reach their own business goals.

The last goal saw a big boost in May when OtterBox, which currently offers an extensive array of protective solutions for Samsung’s leading devices, joined the Samsung Mobile Application Partner Program (SMAPP). Through this program, OtterBox will help influence and facilitate the evolution of Samsung’s mobile accessory portfolio with a focus on innovation, quality and voice of the customer.

Getting more by giving back

The OtterCares® Foundation, established in 2010 by company co-founder Nancy Richardson to give back to the Fort Collins community, has also entered a growth phase. The foundation is looking into ways to expand its charitable giving and volunteerism into the other communities OtterBox is now a part of.

In 2012, the foundation:

  • Awarded more than $330,000 in grant funding to 150 organizations.
  • Served 1,707 students through the Pack2School backpack program.
  • Volunteered 2,575 hours.
  • Raised more than $266,000 for the “Get it, Grow it, Give it Challenge,” in which each employee is given a $200 grant certificate to grow and then donate to the nonprofit of their choice.

“We continue to make philanthropy a part of our culture, even as we grow. The OtterCares Foundation is thriving. In fact, we brought in a new director of operations, Gary Rogers, to help execute the expansion of our mission,” Tatti says.

The foundation’s mission – to champion innovative education for the empowerment of youth – found the perfect partner and outlet this past summer when it became a sponsor of the 2013 iSchool Digital Learning Revolution Tour.

The iSchool Initiative is a student-led nonprofit organization dedicated to revolutionizing the U.S. education system through innovative technology. The year-long tour, which kicked off in late June, provides training to more than 25,000 administrators, teachers and students across the country through workshop sessions, panel discussions, consultation meetings and tradeshow events.

“Our sponsorship of this tour is an opportunity to extend our reach and involvement in the technological development of education beyond our local community,” Thomas says.

The future looks bright

Earlier this year when OtterBox introduced the Defender Series with iON Intelligence for the iPhone® 4/4S, it was the first step in Thomas’ vision to take OtterBox from being a case producer to an integrated technology provider. The case combines rugged protection with double the battery capacity and an app that predicts battery time by monitoring device-usage habits. “Being a part of every aspect of people’s mobile life of technology: that’s where OtterBox is going,” Thomas says.

“What helps make us such a leader in our industry is that we’re strategically focused on making accessories for more than one device manufacturer. I think this diversification gives OtterBox a competitive advantage. We have a long history of being a device-agnostic company ― in addition to Apple we also design and create cases for brands like Amazon, BlackBerry, HTC, Motorola and Samsung, to name a few,” Tatti says. “And on the distribution-logistics side of things, we have to grow and innovate right along with our products, and that’s where a company like FedEx plays such an integral role.”

*The NPD Group/Retail Tracking Service/November 2010–March 2013.

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