In this episode of Art of the Kickstart, we interviewed Mike DeGrazia, founder and CEO of iGrip Technologies. Looking to solve a problem a lot of Americans and grocery shoppers all around the world have experienced, Mike designed SaniGrip. Designed as a shopping cart handle cover, SaniGrip is a silicone-based sanitary solution to dirty shopping cart handle problems. Learn how Mike is spreading the word about SaniGrip, with only nine days left in his Kickstarter campaign.

Topics Discussed and Key Crowdfunding Takeaways

  • Insight into how Mike’s first job at a private equity firm kickstarted his career as an entrepreneur
  • How the pandemic influenced the idea and design of SaniGrip
  • Why SaniGrip is a better hygiene solution than a disinfecting wipe
  • How and why iGrip Technologies plans to use direct marketing to introduce SaniGrip to retail stores
  • Some of the challenges Mike had to overcome to make SaniGrip a reality

Links

Sponsors

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Transcript

View this episode's transcript

Roy Morejon:
Welcome, entrepreneurs and startups to Art of the Kickstart, the podcast that every entrepreneur needs to listen to before you launch.

Roy Morejon:
I’m your host, Roy Morejon. President and founder of Enventys Partners, the world’s only turnkey product launch company that has helped over 2000 innovations successfully raise over $400 million in capital since 2010. Each week, I interview a Crowdfunding success story, an inspirational entrepreneur or a business expert in order to help you take your startup to the next level.

Roy Morejon:
This show would not be possible without our main sponsor, Product Type. A 300,000 member Crowdfunding media site and newsletter that’s generated millions of dollars in sales for over a thousand top tier projects since 2017. Check out ProductType.co to subscribe to the weekly newsletter.

Roy Morejon:
Now, let’s get on with the show.

Roy Morejon:
Welcome to another edition of Art of the Kickstart. Today, we are joined by Mike DeGrazia, founder and CEO of iGrip Technologies. Currently Mike’s got a product out on Kickstarter right now called SaniGrip, which is an amazing sanitary solution for shopping cart handles. So, really excited to have you on the show Mike, thank you so much for being here.

Mike DeGrazia:
Of course. It’s great to be on happy to introduce the product and tell a little bit more about myself.

Roy Morejon:
Yeah, let’s do that because I think you’ve truly solved a true real-world problem that all of us have dealt with not only over the past year, but for previous years of any time you start going to the grocery store, just that question mark, of what’s on this shopping cart? What’s on the handle there? So, let’s talk a little bit about that inspiration and where it began.

Mike DeGrazia:
Yeah, of course. No, it’s definitely a problem that a lot of Americans and even grocery shoppers all around the world have experienced. It’s dealing with the public shopping cart handles where you don’t know how many germs and bacteria are presently on that current shopping cart handle. And, especially given the current pandemic that we’re in, I felt like there was definitely a need for this product. And I mean, this is something that can help keep everyone safe while doing their daily shopping errands. And, more specifically, most of these parents that travel around and do these errands with our kids in the car.

Mike DeGrazia:
It’s just a great way to keep their kids clean. And I know some of these children, young children like to bite and lick on these shopping cart handles. And I mean, just not knowing who used the cart before you, if it was wiped down properly, if it was wiped down at all with any sort of sanitary wipes. But, that’s why I wanted to introduce the SaniGrip to the market. Just because it gives shoppers the peace of mind, knowing that there is that anti-microbial silicone barrier between their hands and the public shopping cart handles. So, I figured it was a great time to introduce this product to the market and hopefully more people will catch on and realize kind of the general hygiene facts of the shopping carts that they’re using. And just knowing that they don’t have to see that exposure when they’re doing their daily grocery shopping.

Roy Morejon:
No, I get it, Mike. I’ve got two young kids and anytime I go shopping with them, I have no idea what they’re going to put in their mouth that day, especially at the store. And, then recently I go to the store and they tell you that it’s just been sprayed down, but there’s particles all over it and water or whatever it may be. You don’t know if that was from someone sneezing on it as they walked by that row of carts or if it’s just leftover sanitation spray that I probably don’t want my kids to be touching anyway if they’re going to use the cart or what have you.

Roy Morejon:
I mean, just the peace of mind alone of this product is totally worth it. And, then aids in that better shopping experience. Over the last year, I think we’ve all fretted going into a grocery store where we didn’t know what we were going to get. And just one of those issues was just touching things. So, really excited about this innovation. So, talk a little bit about your background. What led you to being an entrepreneur here?

Mike DeGrazia:
So, I’ve always wanted to be an entrepreneur my whole life. I always thought it was exciting to run my own business and to create my own product that I can wake up every morning, be excited about and also trying to help any sort of natural cause. Whether it’s the environment, whether it’s preventing people from exposing themselves to the germs on the shopping carts, it’s just something that I’ve always been passionate about is just running my own business.

Mike DeGrazia:
So, it all started for me when I got my first job right out of college, working for a private equity firm out of Los Angeles. And, my main responsibility for that firm was originating opportunities for our company to buy and then run for a few years and then sell later on for a premium. So, during the course of my career with this private equity firm, I came across tons and tons of businesses, early stage, later stage businesses. Founder owned, entrepreneur owned businesses that I saw kind of the issues that they went through. I saw some of the highlights that they went through and I just saw the overall joy that these business owners had from starting some business from early on.

Mike DeGrazia:
So, overall that’s kind of where my inspiration came from to start my own business. And, I just knew that there’s got to be something out there that I could be passionate about and then I could really kind of run with on my own.

Roy Morejon:
So, what motivates you these days, Mike? With this truly inspirational product that can help folks and just alleviate some of that anxiety of going shopping. What’s motivating you these days?

Mike DeGrazia:
What’s motivating me, is getting the word out about the SaniGrip. I mean, a lot of the feedback that I’ve received thus far is that some of the negative feedback that I’ve received and so on that you can just go to the grocery store and wipe down the shopping carts with one of the sanitary wipes. But even still, you don’t know if that’s a hundred percent disinfecting, the wipe. Sometimes there’s not even sanitary wipes available at the grocery stores. So, the whole thing for me is I want to spread the word about SaniGrip as far and as wide as possible so that people don’t have these concerns when they’re grocery shopping. And that they can have their own SaniGrip wherever they go.

Mike DeGrazia:
Whether it’s they keep it in their car. They bring it home with them, they throw it in the dishwasher, they wash it. Either way, they don’t ever have to worry about exposing themselves or their kids germs to any sort of the bacteria that’s found on these shopping carts. So I would love to just spread this as much as possible, get the word out and make this a common routine for everyday shoppers.

Roy Morejon:
Absolutely. So let’s talk a little bit about the overall design of this. When you were creating SaniGrip, talk about that process. How did you go about deciding what features? What materials to include on the design itself?

Mike DeGrazia:
Of course. So basically the design came around, I wanted something that would be portable and easily convenient for shoppers that they could keep in the car and that they can bring home, they can wash with them and it’s just not going to take up too much space. So at the end of the day, I thought of a design that could encompass the entire length of the shopping cart handle. But, a shopping cart handle is usually typically around 20 to 25 inches long. So, I know I didn’t want to make a product that was going to be that long.

Mike DeGrazia:
So, I designed the SaniGrip basically with an accordion shaped design that allows the product to collapse to 10 inches when it’s not being used. And then when you bring it to the grocery store, you put it on the shopping cart handle, you put it in its collapsed form on the handle, and then you actually can expand it like an accordion to 17 inches long, which has plenty of room for your hands and your children’s hands to feel comfortable on the shopping cart handle.

Roy Morejon:
Let’s talk about that process in terms of some of the challenges that you’ve had to overcome in terms of designing the product and getting it out there. What hurdles have you had to jump over to get it to this point?

Mike DeGrazia:
Yeah, this accordion shaped design is actually a patent approved design that I created and that I’ve worked with a team of engineers with. So, one of the main issues is that this product has never been designed before in this accordion shaped, collapsible, silicone based material. So, it’s never been designed before. So, we had to run numerous amounts of prototypes and different iterations to get the design to where we wanted it to be.

Mike DeGrazia:
There was definitely a lot of adjustments that we had to make along the way. We came up with a few ideas and a few products that we just weren’t satisfied with until we finally came up with a design that we were all satisfied with. It works great. It’s durable. It’s machine washable. And, it was just a long process just because of the uniqueness of the design of the accordion.

Roy Morejon:
So, earlier you talked about some of the feedback that you were getting from consumers, whether they be looking at the product or just discussing the overall problem in general. Talk a little bit about that experience with talking with folks before the launch to potentially improve or make changes based on that fee.

Mike DeGrazia:
Yeah, I mean, the feedback is always going to be there that, I mean, there’s other ways to prevent the spread of germs and bacteria as well grocery shopping. But for me, I mean, there’s a lot of tangibles that go into those conversations, whether it’s you could bring gloves. You could bring your own sanitary wipes. You could bring spray, or even you could rely on the grocery store employee, that’s wiping down the carts. To me, these are all things that can be avoided with the SaniGrip, just through the fact that, I mean, it’s your own personal solution. You don’t have to rely on the grocery store. You don’t have to rely on the sanitary wipes and you don’t have to rely on the employee that’s wiping down the shopping cart handles with the same towel over and over and over again that is being used to disinfect all the other shopping cart handles.

Mike DeGrazia:
So for me, I took the feedback. I know it’s always going to be coming to me, whether there’s other solutions out there that can be used to prevent the spread of germs and bacteria. But for me it, I just think that this is an easy, convenient solution for the everyday shopper.

Roy Morejon:
Absolutely. Yeah, I mean, with the active Kickstarter campaign running right now, dozens of backers in there so far in its early stages, a couple of weeks left on the launch, how have you gone about potentially managing the campaign where it’s at now and what are the plans for this product after the campaign concludes?

Mike DeGrazia:
No. Yeah. I want to keep up the momentum with the campaign. Like you said, we got a couple of weeks left here to gain some early stage backers that can pre-order the product. We’re super appreciative of everyone who’s already backed the product thus far. But, then after the campaign, I mean, we plan on doing the same marketing strategies, advertising strategies, and more specifically, we are currently running our first batch of manufacturing of the SaniGrip units.

Mike DeGrazia:
So, as soon as the SaniGrips are finished, manufactured, I will actually be receiving a large handful of them where I will be going supermarket to supermarket. To Targets, to Costcos, to Trader Joe’s you name it and just spreading the word in person, setting up a table out front. Showing the customers how the product is used and what are the benefits of using the SaniGrip. And, I really do think that that point of purchase display in front of these grocery stores is really going to help the consumers understand the benefits of the SaniGrip.

Roy Morejon:
Do you think that’s one of the hurdles that’s currently facing you right now in terms of not necessarily being able to touch it, feel it, have an experience with it? And, that I love the guerrilla marketing feet on the street showing the product and everything around that, has kind of held back potentially some of the backers on the campaign itself?

Mike DeGrazia:
Of course. I mean, people can view the videos and see the pictures on the Kickstarter campaign and they get a decent feel for what the product looks like and feels like. But, I think the most attractive feature about the product is actually how it feels on the shopping cart. Which is why I think the point of purchase and then the in-person marketing is going to be super beneficial for the SaniGrip. Just due to the fact that it’s super comfortable, honestly. You put this on, it’s got all these ridges where you can put your fingers aligned within the shopping cart handle.

Mike DeGrazia:
And, I think that people are really going to appreciate the fact that it could also collapse the almost half the sizes as it is when it’s fully expanded. And, I just think that the unique design, the comfortable aspect of the SaniGrip is going to be monumental for the momentum driving factor of the SaniGrip campaign.

Roy Morejon:
Yeah, absolutely. No, I think it’s truly innovative, Mike. I love what you’ve done with the product and definitely a user of it.

Mike DeGrazia:
Appreciate it.

Roy Morejon:
Well with this, this gets us into our launch round Mike, where I’m going to rapid fire a handful of questions at you. You good to go?

Mike DeGrazia:
Yes. Let’s do it.

Roy Morejon:
Let’s rock. So, what inspired you to be an entrepreneur?

Mike DeGrazia:
I’d just seen a bunch of different entrepreneurs from my career in finance. I always wanted to be one myself and I just thought I needed a product that I can be passionate about and that could also be a good source of inspiration to others.

Roy Morejon:
Awesome. So if you could meet with any entrepreneur throughout history, who would it be?

Mike DeGrazia:
I’ve got to go with my man, Mark Cuban. He’s just been an inspiration ever since I started learning about him and reading about him. I mean, the guy’s just a hustler. He’s gone door to door. It’s very similar to the strategy that I plan on doing in my career with iGrip. Knocking on grocery stores, department stores, you name it. It’s just something that… And I see where his career has taken him and I am super passionate about what I’m doing and I know that he was as well.

Roy Morejon:
Nice. So, what would be your first question for Mark?

Mike DeGrazia:
So, I guess my question to Mark is I’m sure he’s a… I’ve heard about a lot of the struggles that he had early on his career. I guess one thing that I would like to know is kind of what motivated him? I mean, for me, I know that I’m serving a greater purpose with the SaniGrips, so that’s what’s keeping me going. But, there’s times where you just don’t think that you’re really making a difference. And, I would like to know kind of kept him going? What kept him up at night? Got him up early in the morning? And really focused on kind of what he was looking to pursue.

Roy Morejon:
Nice. So how about, what advice would you give to a new inventor entrepreneur that’s looking to launch their new product?

Mike DeGrazia:
I would say run with it. I mean, whenever you think of an idea, whether you think it’s going to fail or succeed, I mean, you never know until you give it a try. You’re always going to receive negative feedback in any sort of early stage business or product. And, you just kind of can’t let that defer you from kind of your overall goal. I’ve already received some negative feedback. I’ve received positive feedback, but at the end of the day, I mean, you can’t listen to anyone other’s opinions. You got to just run with what your main goal is, your idea. And, you just got to see it through because at the end of the day, you don’t know if it’s ever going to work unless you try.

Roy Morejon:
Absolutely. So, Mike, what’s one invention that’s made your life easier?

Mike DeGrazia:
One invention that’s made my life easier? Hmm, that’s a good question. Probably going to have to skip that one.

Roy Morejon:
Fair enough. All right. Well last question then in the launch round, Mike, you’re doing great. What does the future of Crowdfunding look like?

Mike DeGrazia:
I just think it’s going to continually getting more and more expansive with new products and new developments. I mean, I think the whole pandemic actually specifically has caused people to think outside the box and create new inventions and create new products and businesses. So, I think the whole Crowdfunding environment as a whole is on the rise.

Mike DeGrazia:
Just due to people actually giving it a go and trying something new. And, seeing if this idea that they thought about it in their head, whether it was a long time ago, whether it was recently, can actually succeed. So, I think it’s a great platform for people to spread the word about their new product and new business. And, I’m so supportive of everyone that wants to go down that route.

Roy Morejon:
Nice. Well, Mike, this is your opportunity to spread the word, give our audience, your pitch, tell people what you’re all about, where people should go and why they should check out SaniGrip.

Mike DeGrazia:
Yeah, so definitely.

Mike DeGrazia:
So SaniGrip has, like you said, it has a couple of weeks left in the Kickstarter campaign. We’re super excited about the backers that have already pledged their donations and are proudly pre-ordered their SaniGrips. But, then so on after it’s going to be an e-commerce product for about the first year. We’re going to be selling direct to customer on my website, which is iGriptech.com and then also on Amazon. So people can buy this, receive the SaniGrip in a couple of days.

Mike DeGrazia:
And, that’s the plan for right now to spread the word about SaniGrip, get more and more people using the product. And, then once it’s more established and we establish a recognizable brand, then we plan on re introducing this product to the retail stores and putting it in the CVS’s, the WalMarts, the Costcos, you name it. This way, when people pass the SaniGrip in a store they say, “Oh, that’s the SaniGrip. I know all about this.” And they can buy it right there in the store.

Mike DeGrazia:
So, we think that that’s the best strategy to roll out. We’re super excited. We can’t wait to see where this product can go. And yeah, we’re just hoping for the best.

Roy Morejon:
Absolutely. Well, audience, thanks for tuning in make sure to visit ArtoftheKickstart.com for the notes, the transcript, links to the campaign on Kickstarter and everything else we talked about today. And, of course I got to thank my Crowdfunding podcast, sponsors The Gadget Flow and Product Type.

Roy Morejon:
And if you loved this episode, as much as I did make sure to leave us a positive review on iTunes. Mike, thank you so much for joining us today on Art of the Kickstart.

Mike DeGrazia:
My pleasure, Roy. Good speaking with you.

Roy Morejon:
Indeed.

Roy Morejon:
Thanks for tuning into another amazing episode of Art of the Kickstart, the show about building a better business world and life with Crowdfunding. If you’ve enjoyed today’s episode, show us some love by giving us a great rating on your favorite listening station. And of course, make sure to visit ArtoftheKickstart.com for all the previous episodes.

Roy Morejon:
And if you need some help, that’s what we’re here for. Make sure to send me an email to info@artofthekickstart.com. Thanks for tuning in and I’ll see you on the next episode.