Taylor Wiegele and Sierra Smith, the two Harvard MBA's who created the Zorpad “odor destruction” shoe inserts, show how disrupting a market can come from just about anywhere. Tasked with creating a product for one of their business classes, the pair combined their areas of expertise to solve a problem.
Taylor is a chemical engineer who worked on the product team at Clorox, and on the Environmental Control and Life Support Systems team at SpaceX. Sierra worked in operations and strategy for a specialty hospital network and a small, luxury retail start-up. They combined their skills to enter the Harvard’s New Venture Competition where they were semi-finalists.
The product itself is simple. It's smaller than a business card and slips into any shoe. Unlike bulky inserts or messy powders, it can't be seen or felt once stuck into the shoe. The highly touted “NASA technology” that is the center of the product is merely a repurposing of an industrial, porous carbon fabric Wiegele came across in his engineering days. The small piece in every Zorpad has more surface area than a tennis court – that's why it absorbs odor for 60 wears.
Harvard MBA's tend to be pretty smart and the pair caught the attention of Venture Capital Firm Rough Draft Ventures, who gave them $25,000 for their first production run. To date, they've sold about 50,000 units and are available on Amazon. Sierra claims this isn't heir last product – they have others in the works. They likely want to leverage a Shark to go big into every channel they can get into. Will a Shark like this product or think it stinks?
My Take on Zorpad
As a beach dweller, I mostly wear flip-flops. I wear dress shoes (my XeroShoes) when I go out, my sneakers at the gym and my TerraFlex Hikers when I walk the dog. As with any shoes, they can get a bit stinky. I use foot powder when they do, but the Zorpad looks like a more elegant solution.
What I like most about it is I could even use it with flip-flops. They get stinky, too. Since it's smaller than a business card and it just sticks to the insole, it will literally fit any shoe, even woman's heels. Try wearing heels with “Odor Eaters!” I think this is a good-looking product. They have a huge re-order base, so they must work. I am in.
Will Sharks Think this Business is a Shoe-In?
Harvard MBA's usually do well in the Tank. They may not always get a deal, but they usually nail their numbers; the Sharks like that. This company is selling some Zorpads, so sales numbers will be juicy. If the valuation is good, I expect a bidding war.
Lori could add some value to this and it's up her alley: mass appeal and inexpensive. It's not necessarily demonstrable, but neither are other foot odor products. Mark has other personal care brands in his stable – like Dude Wipes – so he'll be interested if the numbers are good. Charles Barkley, as a former NBA star, knows a thing or two about stinky sneakers, so he could bid too. I expect bids from these three Sharks, but Mr. Wonderful and Robert could jump in too.