By Jason DeRusha

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Almost all of us have cell phones, and with them come cases and skins. NPD Group market research says over the last 12 months, Americans spent $2.2 billion dollars on cell phone protection devices.

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Two recent University of Minnesota students decided they wanted a piece of that action, and came up with their own made-in-Minnesota cases called Woodchuck.

The non-stop hum of the Epilog Legend laser printer means business is good.

Ben VandenWymelenberg, 23, and Kevin Groenjes, 24, started selling skins made for their phones while they were students at the University of Minnesota.

The cases are made of 100 percent real wood. They use 3M adhesive to adhere the pieces to the phone itself, and they won’t leave any residue behind when you remove them.

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VandenWymelenberg and Groenjes took Woodchuck from the University of Minnesota bookstore to Best Buy’s website to, eventually, 1,500 Target stores across the country. It took seven months to hammer out the Target deal, and they had to reengineer the design of the package and get the price down to $29.99.

“We took the whole team the first day it was in the store, walked through, bought the first two units,” VandenWymelenberg said. “It was a pretty good time.”

For now, there’s just one Woodchuck product in Target: two different skins for the back of the iPad mini, but they make all sorts of real-wood products — made in America, with custom laser-printing all done in St. Louis Park.

“We’re shipping our economy overseas. Bringing that back is important, not only to create jobs for ourselves,” Groenjes said, “but also for families and the greater community around us.”

It’s a college dream now on track as a real small business.

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The company currently employs just six employees.

Jason DeRusha