A UT business student and his two partners have recently launched their own headphone company, Culture Audio, to compete with industry heavyweights like Bose and Beats by Dr. Dre.
Andrew Bernstein is an MBA student in the Haslam College of Business. With his partners Josh Simmons and Trenn "Carnes," who operate out of Chattanooga, he has been working on developing a line of noise-cancelling headphones that have matched lab quality tests against popular brands. Culture Audio’s designs also include features like automatic pausing when you take them off your ears.
Despite being new to the industry, Bernstein and his partners have a love for music and entrepreneurship.
“We’ve always had a passion for music,” Bernstein said. “We’ve all had this entrepreneurial spirit. Josh’s first company was actually selling doormats, which is not an exciting product. It’s a total commodity, but he’s got a great business mind.”
Bernstein explained that Simmons had grown tired of selling doormats, and eventually decided to refocus his business on a product he had more interest in.
“He approached me with the idea of doing headphones,” Bernstein said. “I thought that was an exciting idea too because we all love music. We also were looking at the market, and we realized that there’s a gap. You have these low-end headphones that are $20 or $40 at Target, and you have these really high-end headphones that are over $300.”
Bernstein said that Culture Audio hopes to sell their headphones at $150, which is less than half the cost of similarly equipped headphones from competitors like Bose. Additionally, Bernstein said that ten percent of net profits are to go to the charitable organization Compassion International to help combat child poverty.
“Right now, we’re working on specifics of exactly who the money’s going to,” Bernstein said. “But we’re going to have a giving page on our website. It’s going to show the exact kids that we’re helping, and how we’re helping them. We’ve been in contact with Compassion International and have already made a donation based on our projections from our first round of sales.”
Bernstein also spoke on some challenges that Culture Audio has run in to.
“One of the challenges we’re facing is tariffs,” Bernstein said. “Since we’re producing them in China and importing them into the United States and selling them via Amazon Prime. Bringing the headphones into the US involves getting tariffs and taxes and things like that. Right now, we’re dealing with a situation where there have been the raising tariffs, and we’ll have to eat the cost of the tariffs to sell our headphones at $150.”
Culture Audio’s website can be found at www.cultureaudio.com. The website offers pre-orders for the headphones as well as information on how the features of their headphones distinguish them from their competitors.
Culture Audio products can be purchased on the website and via Amazon.