As some businesses understandably struggle in pandemic conditions, others thrive. Toad Opener is one that is perfectly positioned for success with a simple solution for hands-free door opening.
When Nick Moritz, a Michigan ex-pat living in Shanghai, was forced to return to metro Detroit at the very beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, he noticed a product installed at the foot of a commercial door that allowed the user to open the door with a foot instead of a hand. Recognizing the inherent ingenuity, he contacted the company with the hope of becoming an installer of the product he knew would be needed during and beyond the pandemic.
When Moritz learned the product had no installer program, his entrepreneurial mind recognized an opportunity to create a similar — but better — product. In April, Moritz and business partner Clif Wells — a fellow Michigan State Spartan Moritz met in China — launched Toad Opener, a hands-free door opening product with enhanced design features not found in competitive products.
Installed with zero door damage
“The key differentiator is we are able to apply the units without having to drill permanent, damaging holes into valuable commercial doors.” Instead, the Toad Opener is affixed to the door using a patent-pending design and commercial-grade 3M adhesives, saving damage and allowing for removal and replacement if necessary. This also makes the units appropriate for glass and refrigerator doors.
In addition to servicing many other customers such as restaurants, bars and hotels, Toad Opener has provided “bright, beautiful, customized units” for the City of Royal Oak throughout their new city hall and ice arena. Using 3D printing, they embed logos and branding into the units. The product comes with a sticker affixed to the door at eye level to alert individuals to use their foot to open the door, hands-free.
Expanding product offering with support from Centrepolis Accelerator
Early on, Moritz and Wells sought the support of a business accelerator and contacted Dan Radomski, director of the Centrepolis Accelerator at Lawrence Technological University in the Southfield City Centre. Through the Centrepolis Accelerator, which is uniquely designed to support businesses that manufacture physical products, Toad Opener qualified for a $1,500 business accelerator fund grant for services, which the company is using to innovate new product offerings.
Moritz says he and Wells are now working with a new 3D filament material embedded with copper nanoparticles that are antiviral and antibacterial. “The new material kills not only COVID-19, but also the flu and MSRA,” says Moritz. “This makes Toad Openers appropriate for hospital and physician office settings.” They are also designing protective overlays for high-touch surfaces.
“From toilet stall latches to drinking fountains, we’re creating products that are healthier and safer and basically self-cleaning. We give people a high level of confidence, though we don’t want anyone to abandon the best practices of disinfecting,” Moritz says.
A target market for Toad Opener is government and commercial buildings in the Southfield City Centre. “A major selling point is not just that companies should add Toad Openers to their doors for the sake of it, but that it’s a competitive advantage for them to be able to say when people start coming back to offices, that they have invested in these products to make the return as safe as possible,” Moritz says. For now, Toad Opener positions itself in the business-to-business and business-to-government sectors, rather than selling directly to individual consumers. The product is also suitable for public buildings like libraries and schools.
“We are focused on protecting the community and making everyone safer,” Moritz says.