MELBOURNE, Florida. – For Trevor “TJ” Low, Snap Hacks is an invention of necessity.
“I was just trying to solve my own problem,” said the father-of-three from Melbourne.
His problem ? Snacking at work meant greasy, smudged fingerprints on the computer keyboard.
His solution? A colorful gadget that’s part chopsticks, tweezers and all fun, according to News 6 partner Florida Today.
Low works as an internal auditor for Leonardo DRS. These days, he works from home. But in 2016, when he first invented the Snap Hacks concept, he was often in the office long after the cafeteria was closed. When the pre-quitting hunger pangs hit, he grabbed a bag of crisps.
While the crisps satiated his hunger, the crumbs and residue that clung to his fingertips wreaked havoc on his keyboard. He started using two pencils as chopsticks to keep his fingers clean.
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An idea started to germinate.
Using computer-aided design software, he began to perfect the product. He made a pair of training stick-like utensils, connected at the top, with a 3D printer.
He was enthusiastic about his creation, until his son Alistair, then 18 months old, broke it in half.
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From prototype to polish
After more prototypes and tests, he finally perfected his prototype. A hinge at the top holds together two sturdy 7.5-inch strips of plastic that bend slightly at the ends. The strips can fold flat for storage, or when in use, they pinch together to pick up items such as potato chips or the last olive hidden in the bottom of the jar.
It is a simple and elegant design.
Low has a lot of ideas, said Amy Low, his wife and Snap Hacks business partner. So much so that she gave him a notebook to write things down as they come to her.
They wanted to go ahead with one of his ideas, produce it and see if it was viable. Snap Hacks seemed like a good place to start, something they could use to learn the ropes of entrepreneurship.
They contacted Groundswell Startups, a business incubator in Melbourne.
“When I first met Trevor and Amy, they had a rough prototype of the tool; at the time, it was just an idea,” said Jarin Eisenberg, chief operating officer at Groundswell. “We encouraged them to apply for our cohort of idea stage accelerators in partnership with StarterStudio, and over those 10 weeks we went in-depth with them on how they would produce the product, the go-to-market strategies the possible market and the different income streams.”
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With help from Groundswell, the Lows partnered with other local businesses – Matt Mayer for branding and longtime Groundswell member and mentor Keith Nugent for web design – to refine their idea and prepare for sale.
They worked with Melbourne-based manufacturer Jaycon Systems, another Groundswell partner, to mass-produce the Snap Hacks tools in dishwasher-safe plastic.
The Lows launched their snaphacks.shop website on August 30 and began shipping their product in mid-September. They were delighted with the response. More than 250 have been sold since the site went online.
They were also surprised by the different uses people are finding for Snap Hacks.
“The original design is for snacking,” said Trevor Low, and it’s used for that. The company motto is “Simple. Sanitary. Snack.”
But they’ve heard of people using their Snap Hacks to get pills out of the bottle, to give their dogs treats, or to pick up screws and nuts in the garage.
A client who boasted of having traveled a lot and being an adventurous eater is no longer able to use chopsticks due to arthritis. It uses Snap Hacks instead.
They’re also great for kids, and an unexpected clientele turned out to be parents of kids with sensory sensitivities. .
“I’m biased, but I think it’s a fun product,” Trevor Low said.
When people see the utensil and get a chance to try it, they love it, Amy Low said. Now they are working to spread the word.
“It’s not a product you know to look for,” Trevor Low said. “People aren’t Googling ‘chopsticks for snacking’.”
At least they weren’t. But on Jan. 7, ABC’s “Shark Tank,” a reality TV show that lets hopeful entrepreneurs pitch their ideas to potential backers, episode 10 of season 13 aired. It featured Snactive, a chopstick-like snack tool designed to keep your hands clean.
Trevor Low said he stayed up all night worrying about product similarities and competition. Eventually, the Lows decided to consider Snactive an asset.
They ordered a Snactive tool to compare it with Snap Hacks. Snactive is smaller and more expensive – $15 compared to Snap Hacks $12.99.
“For me, it’s market validation,” said Amy Low. This shows that there is a need for this type of product. Now there is more than one option.
Snap Hacks are starting to pick up steam. Utensils now come in black, purple, blue, and red; orange green and yellow will be added soon.
The Lows hope companies take notice. The long, flat sides of the tools provide the perfect branding space, giving Snap Hacks potential as promotional items.
For Amy Low, the process has been fun. She and her husband met when they partnered for a project in a business class at Brevard Community College in 2012. They are still partners.
“It’s been a real treat,” she said of working with Trevor. “He was always full of ideas. It was great to see this idea come to life.
Trevor Low also said he enjoyed the process. Friends, family and people they met through Groundswell were supportive. But he knew Snap Hacks had real potential the first time they got an order from a state where they didn’t know anyone.
Eisenberg is a fan of the product.
“I keep one in my cup holder here at Groundswell and use it all the time when I eat and snack at my desk,” Eisenberg said. “No messy hands, no messy keyboards.”