Martin Dimitrov was a junior at Wheeling High School in 2014 when he got the idea for SnapClips. He was taking a class in entrepreneurship and one of the assignments was to identify everyday problems and think about how to solve them. One of those problems for Martin and his friend, Ryan Caulfield, was the spring weight collars used in the school gym. They were difficult to use and often broken. So they took this problem to class and began to experiment with alternatives. Using slap bracelets, which were popular at that time, they eventually came up with a good prototype. In May, 2015, they entered the SnapClip in the District 214 Startup Showcase and won first place and a $400 prize. A local resident, who is the co-founder of a program for young entrepreneurs, was impressed with the product and gave them $2,500 to support further development.
Although Dimitrov was now the CEO of a company, because he was only 17 his name could not be used on any of the legal paperwork. Fortunately, Caulfield was old enough! In a February 27, 2016 story in Daily Herald’s Business Section, Dimitrov said: “It’s kind of funny. Entrepreneurship isn’t about whether you’re 16 or 50, it’s more about having the spirit of an entrepreneur.”
On February 2, 2016, a Kickstarter campaign began with a goal of $8,000. By the end of the campaign on March 2nd, they had raised $23,040 from 664 backers. In June, 2016, SnapClips was featured as a “Next Game Changer” on Advisor.TV.
Dimitrov eventually teamed up with Karol Grycuk, Luke Helminiak and Johnny Perricone, three friends he had met at a job when they were all still in high school. A provisional application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office was filed and the partners spent much of the following year dealing with all the usual issues of a growing business– countless hours of research and development, working with a manufacturer in China to perfect the design, and obstacles such as sourcing, manufacturing, and packaging. Although these issues caused some significant delays, by July of 2017, all orders from the 664 backers had been fulfilled.
SnapClips are made from military grade Kevlar, and their patented technology makes securing and swapping weights quick and easy. SnapClips stay locked in place during heavy lifts and repeated drops, never lose tension and the grip on the bar is adjustable. SnapClips can be used with any bar sleeve 1.5 – 2.5 inches in diameter, including Olympic bars, Powerlifting bars, Logs, Camber Bars, Safety Squat Bars, Swiss Bars, and Farmers Walk Handles.
In November, 2017, Dimitrov and his partners, who are now students at UIC and Harper College, won the $5,000 first prize in U.Pitch, an entrepreneurship competition for college students. “We beat kids from Yale, the University of Chicago and Northwestern,” Dimitrov proudly stated to the Chicago Sun Times.
Dimitrov is only 19 and it has been just a few years since that class at Wheeling High School, but it seems likely that appearing on Shark Tank is just another stop on a long successful road for someone who clearly has the “spirit of an entrepreneur.”