Duquesne graduate starts hair gel business

Courtesy of Nathan Failla  PocketGel is designed to fit in pouches small enough to be carried on airplanes. Failla said he is considering launching other products.

Courtesy of Nathan Failla
PocketGel is designed to fit in pouches small enough to be carried on airplanes. Failla said he is considering launching other products.

Hallie Lauer | Staff Writer

If you have ever flown on a plane, you probably know that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) limits passengers to 3.4 ounces of liquid inside bottles.

A product created by a recent Duquesne graduate is designed to help travelers who want to take hair gel on their travels.

Nathan Failla, who graduated in 2016 with dual majors in entrepreneurial studies and legal studies, came up with the idea for PocketGel, hair gel that comes in small containers — small enough to be taken onto planes. He decided to start his own business to produce and sell the portable hair gel.

During the first semester of his senior year, Failla came up with the idea during a marketing class, and in his second semester, he continued to develop it in another business school class.

Failla’s idea for the portable hair gel was inspired by a rainy walk to meet his family for dinner in September 2015.

“I told my roommate, ‘What’s the point of me doing my hair? By the time I get there it will be a mess anyway. I wish I could take some hair gel with me in, like, a packet,’” Failla said.

Failla first sought to market it as a men’s product, but when considering how convenient it could make travel, he saw the potential for PocketGel to be a unisex product.

According to The Bureau of Labor Statistics, 14 percent of Americans have, like Failla, started their own businesses.

Failla said he was a good fit for entrepreneurship, because he did not want to enter a conventional line of work.

“I have always had the mindset [of] being a risk taker, and I never wanted a 9-to-5 job,” Failla said.

Failla said he did not have to take this risk alone. While some of his fellow students were skeptical, he said his professors were very supportive, and a few even offered their expertise.

One of those professors is Timothy Lightholder, an adjunct professor in Duquesne’s business school. Lightholder is also the vice president of technology and development at Amcom, a subsidiary of the Xerox Corporation.

“When Nathan contacted me a few months ago he was already in production. I made a few suggestions for his brochure and we discussed any changes that he would make in package design for the next production run,” Lightholder said.

He added that he put Failla in touch with someone who can advise him on shipping costs, adding it was “important” for Failla to minimize shipping cost to maximize profits.

Both Failla and Lightholder are hopeful for the future of PocketGel.

“2017 is shaping up to be a huge year for PocketGel,” Failla said. Failla expects next year to be “huge” for PocketGel. He said that there are some meetings planned with large retailers in 2017.

Also coming in 2017, Failla plans to expand the products to other personal care products like suntan lotions and shampoos.

“[I] can’t talk about the other products, but I can tell you they will come in packets,” Failla said.

PocketGel is currently for sale at pocketgelworld.com, rangeme.com and on Ebay. Failla is looking to expand even further to Amazon and Sears to sell his product. The prices range from $12.99 to $38.97, depending on the size of the order.

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