Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Rolling tobacco and high profits for iRollie

(Graphic by Caroline O’Connor/ Daily Collegian)

Both exhausted and exhilarated, Joseph Khoury, senior at the University of Massachusetts and founder of iRollie, started last semester’s finals week with a four-and-a-half-hour drive at three in the morning to make his first exam. Khoury’s drive followed an Afroman concert in Philadelphia, where Khoury and his childhood friend-turned-business-partner Luke Shepter were promoting their start-up company, iRollie, and its most recent partnership with Afroman to create custom phone cases.

“I wouldn’t call it work, we just hung out with Afroman for five days doing really fun, goofy stuff and got to sell our custom cases at his concert,” said Khoury. “Obviously I didn’t get to really study for my exam, but that was one of the coolest things we’ve been able to do.”

Two years ago, after struggling to roll tobacco during a day of surfing at the beach, Khoury sprouted the idea of creating an on-the-go rolling tray for smokers. In October 2015, with a few thousand dollars he acquired through the stock market and from Shepter, the iRollie phone case, which doubles as a rolling tray and funnel, was created.

After two months of production and a trivial online platform to sell on, the partners turned to the UMass campus for consumers.

“I was the obnoxious kid hawking stuff at school, but it was new and a lot of people roll on the go, so when we first got the cases after production we were able to move about 70 units within the first quarter, which is only about three months,” explained Khoury.

Now being sold in 15 retail locations across the U.S., a developed website and blog, recent movements by iRollie’s creators have changed their marketing direction, focusing on becoming “the Amazon of smoking accessories,” in the words of Khoury.

According to Khoury, partnerships with artists and athletes such as Afroman, Bibi Bourelly and Lucas Magoon have increased sales and marketing for the tray-cases, while the iRollie site has become a hub for an array of smoking accessories created by third-parties.

“We are trying to curate products for the active millennial, like a lighter that is wind-proof for the ski lift, or our fanny pack when at parties,” said Khoury. “There needs to be a place for new products to get initial traction, there is no real outlet for smoking products.”

Sharing a larger vision for the company post-graduation, the iRollie partners plan to launch a “new improved generation” of iRollies, before moving to Las Vegas to work full-time and expand the company.

“We have spent a long time developing this [new iRollie] and are really excited to release it to the public,” said Shepter. “I would have never guessed that we would be here today. Working with Joe and a good friend has been super easy. We tell each other when our ideas are great, but more importantly, we are okay with telling each other that an idea is dumb or that we should try something else.”

Both Khoury and Shepter credit much of their success to networking and their advisers, who include Lou Davis, financial planner and advisor at The Davis Financial Group, Jon Regan, president of the plant nutrients company Suite Leaf, Linda Stewart, a business advisor in the greater Boston area, and Greg Baroth, founder of the digital media management company Monogram Artists.

“We got the fortune of meeting these people who were down enough to get involved,” said Khoury. “Granted we don’t know a lot of things, only being 22, but surrounding ourselves with a board of advisors really puts us in a place where they can help us with little nuances.”

The partners attribute their low budget to seeking out cheap resources, such as using a 3-D printing software through Khoury’s internship with Mass Challenge, a start-up accelerator for the original iRollie prototyping.

Over 10,000 dollars in award money also aided iRollie in its initial start-up costs, after iRollie placed ninth in Valley Venture Mentors Startup Accelerator.

“It isn’t easy being in school and trying to run a company…but we have been able to take advantage of software and networking opportunities,” said Shepter

iRollie’s founders plan to work full-time after their graduation in May, hoping to expand the company across the U.S. after.

Rhiannon Snide can be reached at [email protected].

View Comments (1)
More to Discover

Comments (1)

All Massachusetts Daily Collegian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • S

    Stefan HerlitzMar 29, 2017 at 10:27 am