Editor’s note: The following is part of a three-part series spotlighting U.S. military veterans who also are Kansas City entrepreneurs.
Innovation is at an all-time high as COVID-19 continues to create new market categories, said Shawn Tipping, noting the pandemic has raised new awareness about the thin barriers between health and sickness.
“We’ve never had a frame of reference for how bad a virus can get. Now we do,” Tipping, co-founder of Micro Mini Metal, said of the consumer experience amid the lingering outbreak and why it’s driving sales of personal protective equipment and tools — like the company’s COVID-curated CuRVE Shield and CuRVE Striker — through the roof.
Built in Lenexa using 100 percent copper — a metal that boasts natural antimicrobial effects — the CuRVE Shield helps users open doors, punch elevator buttons, and pay at gas pumps among other uses, without physically touching foreign surfaces.
The CuRVE Striker does the same, the only difference being it’s copper alloy composition — known to kill such viruses as SARS, MRSA, and Ebola, Tipping said — and manufactured in Connecticut.
Click here to shop the CuRVE line of products or for more on their benefits and uses.
“This was a product that didn’t even exist. There was no touch tool back six, seven, eight months ago,” Tipping said of lucrative market opportunity and real-world problem solving in action.
“I sat down at my kitchen table and drew it out at about 3 a.m.,” he recalled of the ideation process at the onset of COVID. “I took a picture of my drawing and I sent it to a friend of mine at KC Proto. I texted it to him about 4 a.m. and pretty much the next day I had a 3D printed copy of the tool.”
With virtually no kinks to work out and dozens of uses, CuRVE was swiftly patented and ready for market, Tipping added, noting a secondary problem the team behind the CuRVE products needed to overcome: cross contamination.
“We also came up with another product called the Copper Companion. Nobody else was doing this either — still nobody’s doing it — and we’re selling a ton of them,” he said of the small, copper infused pouch that holds the CuRVE tools.
“When you drop the tool in there after you’ve used it, the metals go to work and make sure everything’s dead on it. More importantly, you’re not using the tool and then sticking it in your pocket and cross contaminating your wallet, your phone, and everything else.”
A tough time for entrepreneurs, Tipping — who also founded Game Plan Experts, a disaster and emergency preparedness company — credits a portion of his success to time spent in the U.S. Air Force.
“My military experience helped guide me in the concept of, ‘Don’t quit, just keep moving forward,’ and I think that’s probably the biggest thing,” he said, adding two additional co-founders also boast military service records — another in the Air Force and one in the Army.
“[The pandemic] really just gave us time to sit back and look and say, ‘Hey, how can we help?’” Tipping said, drawing parallels to service-based values still instilled in the founding partners. “We figured something out that is useful and people appreciate it.”
This story is possible thanks to support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that works together with communities in education and entrepreneurship to create uncommon solutions and empower people to shape their futures and be successful.