MELBOURNE, Fla. – For Trevor “TJ” Low, Snap Hacks is an invention of necessity.
“I was just trying to solve my own problem,” the Melbourne father of three said.
His problem? Snacking at work meant greasy, smudgy fingerprints on the computer keyboard.
His solution? A colorful gadget that’s part chopsticks, part 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 came up with the Snap Hacks concept, he often was at the office long after the cafeteria closed. When pre-quitting time hunger pangs struck, he’d grab a bag of chips.
While the chips sated his hunger, the crumbs and residue that clung to his fingertips wreaked havoc on his keyboard. He started using two pencils like chopsticks to keep his fingers clean.
An idea began to form.
Using computer-aided design software, he began perfecting the product. He made a pair of utensils similar to training chopsticks, connected at the top, with a 3-D printer.
He was excited about his creation, until his then-18-month-old son Alistair snapped it in two.
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From prototype to polished
After more prototypes and testing, he finally perfected his prototype. A hinge at the top holds together two sturdy 7.5-inch strips of plastic that curve slightly on the ends. The strips can fold up flat for storage, or when in use, they pinch together to pick up items such as potato chips or the last olive hiding at the bottom of the jar.
It’s a simple, elegant design.
Low has lots of ideas, said Amy Low, his wife and Snap Hacks business partner. So many, that she got him a notebook to write things down as they come to him.
They wanted to move forward with one of his ideas, to produce it and see if it was viable. Snap Hacks seemed to be a good one to start with, something they could use to learn the entrepreneurial ropes.
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 that time it was just an idea,” said Jarin Eisenberg, chief operating officer at Groundswell. “We encouraged them to apply for our Idea Stage Accelerator Cohort in partnership with StarterStudio, and over the course of those 10 weeks, took a deep dive with them into how they would produce the product, possible go-to-market strategies and different revenue streams.”
With Groundswell’s help, the Lows partnered with other local businesses — Matt Mayer for branding and Keith Nugent, a longtime Groundswell member and mentor, for web design — to polish their idea and prepare it for sale.
They worked with Melbourne manufacturer Jaycon Systems, another Groundswell partner, to mass produce the Snap Hacks tools out of dishwasher-safe plastic.
The Lows launched their snaphacks.shop website on Aug. 30, and started shipping their product by mid-September. They’ve been thrilled by the response. More than 250 have sold since the site went live.
They’ve also been surprised by the different uses people are finding for Snap Hacks.
“The original design is for snacking,” Trevor Low said, and it’s being used for that. The company motto is “Simple. Sanitary. Snack on.”
But they’ve heard from people who use their Snap Hacks to get pills from the bottom of the bottle, to give treats to their dogs or to pick up screws and nuts in the garage.
One customer who prided himself on being well-traveled and an adventurous eater is no longer able to use chopsticks because of arthritis. He uses Snap Hacks instead.
They’re great for children, too, and an unexpected customer base has turned out to be parents of children with sensory sensitivities. .
“I’m biased, but I think it’s a fun product,” Trevor Low said.
When people see the utensil and get the chance to try it out, they love it, Amy Low said. Now they’re working to get the word out.
“It’s not a product you know to search for,” Trevor Low said. “People are not Googling ‘snacking chopsticks.’”
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 chopsticks-like snacking tool designed to keep your hands clean.
Trevor Low said he was up all night worrying about the product’s similarities and the competition. Eventually, the Lows decided to think of Snactive as an asset.
They’ve ordered a Snactive tool to compare it with Snap Hacks. Snactive is smaller and it’s more expensive — $15 compared to Snap Hacks $12.99.
“For me, it’s market validation,” Amy Low said. It shows there’s a need for this type product. Now there’s more than one option.
Snap Hacks are starting to gain momentum. The utensils now come in black, purple, blue and red; orange green and yellow will be added soon.
The Lows hope businesses will take notice. The long, flat sides of the tools offer perfect branding space, giving Snap Hacks potential as promo items.
For Amy Low, the process has been fun. She and her husband met when they were partnered for a project in a Brevard Community College business class in 2012. They’re still partners.
“It’s been a real treat,” she said of working with Trevor. “He’s always been filled with ideas. It’s been great watching this idea come to life.”
Trevor Low said he’s enjoyed the process, too. Friends, family and the people they’ve met through Groundswell have been supportive. But he knew Snap Hacks had real potential the first time they received an order from a state where they don’t know anyone.
Eisenberg counts herself among the product’s fans.
“I keep one in my cup holder here at Groundswell, and use it all of the time when I am eating and snacking at my desk,” Eisenberg said. “No messy hands, no messy keyboard.”