Michael Sweigart is a work-from-home dad and launderer-in-chief. He does laundry every day for the family of eight—Mom, Dad, three kids, two dogs and a cat—and was constantly frustrated by the pet hair that gets embedded in the fibers of clothing and bedding. He couldn’t understand why, after all that tossing and tumbling around in water and detergent and then the heat and circulation in the dryer, he still needed to pick off, brush off or roll off hair.
Michael had been an inventor all of his life, so he tried devising a solution: tying rubber gloves together, tin foil balls and fabric softeners. The clean clothes were still full of hair. Then, an accident gave him the solution. One of his hobbies is making silicone zombie masks. One day, he dropped a mask, and when he picked it up, he saw it had picked up pet hair from the floor, and the hair rinsed right off of it. So next load of laundry, he tossed in a zombie mask, and the laundry came out hair-free. Being a marketing professional, Michael knew that it was not practical to toss zombie masks into the washer or dryer and that people certainly were not going to line up to buy a zombie mask as a laundry aid. He used his knowledge of chemistry and silicone and his experience in theatrical masks to develop the FurZapper and found his company with Michael as President and his business partner, Harry Levin, as Vice President.
The “secret sauce” of the FurZapper is a silicone solution that’s squishy and sticky so that it picks hair off of garments being washed or dried. In the washer, the FurZapper is just the right degree of “sticky” to pull hair off your garments, hold it temporarily, then allow the water to rinse it down the drain. As effective as the FurZapper is in the washer, it is even more effective in the dryer where the heat amps up the stickiness to pluck off that hair and send it into the dryer’s lint trap.
- Non-toxic, hypoallergenic, and safe for children’s clothing.
- Specialized material does not stick to fabrics permanently.
- Safe for all washers and dryers.
- Cleans easily with a bit of dishwashing detergent and water, and a good scrubbing brings its sticky back.
- Near indestructible—can be reused thousands of times.
- Five-inch size tumbles between the clothing to reach all fabric surfaces.
- The paw shape is just cute as the dickens.
Getting the FurZapper to Market
Michael and Harry’s first major deal was really major—Walmart. They applied during Walmart’s Open Call Initiative and were invited to company headquarters where they received a deal with the laundry department.
They weren’t as successful at trade shows. The buyers they met were not in the right markets for FurZapper. Then they heard about RangeMe, a free online platform that showcases products to thousands of retail buyers. RangeMe’s parent company, ECRM (Efficient Collaborative Retail Marketing), hosts Efficient Program Planning Sessions that match buyers with products. They put products and entrepreneurs right in front of buyers for major chains at a time when they are actively searching for new products to sell. Michael and Harry did so well there that they signed up to attend another one.
Among FurZapper’s awards:
- First place ECRM Buyers Choice Award for both pet and housewares products
- Family Choice Award website
- SuperZOO! Award for Top New Dog Product
Being animals lovers, Michael and Harry donate a portion of FurZapper proceeds to various animal rescues and shelters.