SLEEPPHONES Interrupted by patient calls at night, Dr.Wei Shin Lai’s hus- band, Jason Wolfe, urged her to listen to relaxing music to help her fall back to sleep. The problem? She was un- able to find a pair of headphones that were comfortable to sleep in and that would stay in place through the night. Frustrated, the two decided to create a sleep-ready pair of headphones themselves. In 2007, after work one day, the couple built their first pair of SleepPhones on their kitchen table. Wolfe soldered a pair of speakers and Lai sewed them into a stretchy head- band.Their invention was a success and Lai began to share it with patients who struggled to sleep. For the first five years, SleepPhones was a hobby that the pair pursued in addition to their day jobs. After selling out of their homemade stock in just a few months, they saw a potential full-time business opportunity. The couple be- gan to hire employees to help manage demand. Headquartered in Erie, Pennsylvania, SleepPhones is an example of how a small business can be truly global in the digital age from sales to partnerships to suppliers. On the manufacturing side, Sleep- Phones maintains control over their end products with the help of 20 full- time and 5 part-time employees who support a global supply chain of com- ponents, plastics and packaging from Erie to Asia. “We are trying to make the best product in the world, we are going to be sourcing from the best places in the world to find what we need,” Lai explained, though her company sources hyper-local whenever possible. “Plastic manufacturing is one of the largest industries in Erie, and we source package and printed material less than a mile down the road,” said Lai. SleepPhones has shipped products to customers in over 80 countries worldwide with the UK, Canada and Austral- ia leading the way. “It’s ridiculously easy to ship through the U.S. Postal Service,”suggested Lai.“Fifteen to 20 percent of what we sell goes abroad,” she added. As the team professionalized its operations and manufacturing, it went from homemade headphones to a business with global dealer and supplier relationships. In non-English speaking countries, distributors play a large role in helping to localize SleepPhones in specific markets around the world including Japan, Singapore, Germany and Belgium. Lai explained that she authorizes distribu- tors to tailor online marketing and Google AdWords campaigns to their region, boosting sales by trusting local expertise. ELECTRONICS | 20 EMPLOYEES | FOUNDED IN 2007 30 Global Innovation Forum