published Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

Cellphone firm Snapfon taps niche senior market

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    Leslie Pangle holds a Snapfon cell phone Monday in the Business Development Center.
    Photo by Angela Lewis.
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• Name: Snapfon cell phones for seniors

• Location: Snapfon's 10 staff members handle all the company's business and distribution from the Business Development Center at 100 Cherokee Blvd., Suite 216.

• Contact information: 423-535-9968, www.SeniorCellPhone.com

• Products/services: Cell phones featuring large keys, an easy-to-read screen, enhanced volume, a Life Alert-like SOS button and other features helpful to seniors.

• Age: Two years

• Getting started: Company Chief Operations Officer Rich Mak started his first senior-oriented business eight years ago selling keyboards with easy-to-read keys. Customers constantly would ask him to make other large-font products, so two years ago he decided to get into the cellphone business.

• Distribution: Mak originally wanted to sell the phones to major carriers such as Verizon and AT&T, but the senior market is unattractive to the cell service giants. Seniors shy away from expensive phone features such as Web browsing, opting instead to just use their phones as phones. Capturing that market is too costly for larger operations, so Mak is trying to serve those left behind. "The need is everywhere," he said.

• Cost: New phones cost about $55 when signing up for a service plan. The lowest-priced plan offers 130 minutes a month for a $10 monthly fee. Snapfons operate on AT&T's cellular network.

• Future goals: Snapfon has been profitable for about seven months. About 2,700 people subscribe to the service. Mak hopes the launch of a new phone designed off customer feedback on the first model will help him capture a bigger share of the market among seniors and other visually or hearing impaired individuals.

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