Munio Self Defense

Michele Vorberger and Phil Ventrello of Erie, PA, are the owners of Munio Self Defense, a company that produces a keychain that is both stylish and allows the owner to fight off attackers. Prior to becoming business owners, Michele worked extensively in sales and Phil worked as a graphic designer and licensed self defense instructor. The two decided to combine their passions to create a product that is revolutionary in the personal self-defense market.

In early 2015, Phil and Michele were accepted into the Technology Business Accelerator Program, a partnership between the Gannon Small Business Development Center, Erie Technology Incubator, and the College of Engineering and Business at Gannon University. The goal of the program is to give entrepreneurs an opportunity to “stress test” their business or product. The program consists of eight weeks worth of classes in business finance, marketing, intellectual property, and other topics relevant to the business owners.

At the conclusion of the program, all participants were tasked with presenting a five minute pitch to a panel of judges. The judges then selected one winner to receive a $10,000 grant to put toward developing their business in some way. Phil and Michele were chosen as the winners of the second round of the Technology Business Accelerator Program. With the money they received, they were able to identify an Erie manufacturer who could improve their production process and decrease their cost of production.

Phil and Michele continue to work with the SBDC, both one-on-one and through attending seminars. “The seminars and workshops help us tremendously. And my one on one meetings with my consultant are priceless,” said Vorberger, “she helps me stay focused, and I know I can always count on her for support and guidance.” The first task they completed was defining clearer marketing messaging. Their consultant worked with them to develop a positioning statement and identify calls to action that could be used based on the positioning statement.

After the marketing messaging was created, the consultant worked with Phil and Michele to create a direct mail campaign to reach out to martial arts schools nationwide to promote the Munio workshops. The consultant also spent time with Michele establishing a communications calendar to plan out social media posts ahead of time to make management of those profiles easier.

Through assistance from the SBDC, new marketing materials were developed, but most importantly, the business was able to identify a manufacturer who could not only make their product locally and for less money than what they were previously paying, but are saving Phil and Michele hours of time they previously had to spend applying decal stickers to the bare plastic Munio products. Instead of a decal, the design is now imprinted directly into the plastic for a more durable, better looking finished product.

Phil and Michele are dedicated to continuing to making strides in the field of personal self defense. They have already succeeded in taking the product to multiple locations nationwide and look to continue expanding their reach in the coming months by reaching out to new markets, something the SBDC will continue to assist them with.