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Sleeping Problems? Try Counting Sheep and Export Revenues
December 12, 2017 Office of Small Business

The story of AccousticSheep LLC is a story of American ingenuity combined with old-fashioned hard work, a dollop of know-how and a dash of serendipity. The company’s recipe for success literally unfolded on the owner’s kitchen table a little over a decade ago. The first manufacturing facility was in the owner’s home. The production line ran the length of the kitchen table and had just two assembly line workers.

Dr. Wei-Shin Lai is a family physician who lives in Erie, Pennsylvania, with her husband, Jason Wolfe, a video game developer. As a family doctor, Dr. Lai frequently received calls in the middle of the night. Unfortunately, she had problems sleeping after the call. When you are a doctor on-call, popping a sleeping pill is not an option. Dr. Lai tried relaxing music, but most headphones were too bulky and ear buds just plain uncomfortable.

Since she couldn’t find any headphones that met her needs – she invented them.

Working with her husband, she designed her own set of earbuds which she called “SleepPhones”. The first 500 units were manufactured on the kitchen table with husband Jason doing the soldering while Dr. Lai did the sewing. They both continued their full-time jobs but soon word got out that your sleeping problems could be solved for a song. Production was ramped up to 100,000 units and the innovative couple  patented their invention, quit their full-time jobs and devoted all their energy to the business. Moving to Erie in 2007, they hired their first full-time employee. Since then the “flock”, as employees are referred to, has grown to over 24 employees.


Roll forward seven years: include millions of unit sales, expansion on seven continents and a host of awards. In 2015, AcousticSheep was named “Small Business of the Year” by the Consumer Technology Association and Dr. Lai was named “Small Business Person of the Year” in 2016 by the Small Business Administration. The State of Pennsylvania has presented AccousticSheep LLC with several awards acknowledging the company’s commitment to job growth in the community and contribution to the state’s exports. AccousticSheep was helped along the way by an introduction to EXIM Bank insurance products from Meridian Finance Group, one of EXIM bank's registered insurance brokers. Meridian was the guest speaker at an "Export Basics" training seminar hosted by Duquesne University's Small Business Development Center. The rest is export history. A dash of serendipity indeed!


AccousticSheep LLC has been exporting since 2008 but switched to "open account" credit terms in 2011. International buyers demanding terms beyond what small businesses are able or comfortable providing can present a problem. Lose the sale or take the risk of sleepless nights until payment is received. It needn’t be an either/or situation. Find out how EXIM Bank can help you grow your sales and allow you to sleep soundly knowing your payments are protected.

Get a Free Export Finance Consultation Today!


EXIM’s Blog postings are intended to highlight various facets of exporting, but the postings are not legal advice, and are not intended to summarize all legal requirements associated with exporting.