Spinning up a new business
For many of the 10 million Americans who live with it, carpal tunnel syndrome is debilitating.
In severe cases, the condition – pressure on the nerves in the wrists which causes pain, numbness, and difficulty gripping things – can require physical therapy or surgery. Even in mild cases, the sufferer must stop any activity that worsens their symptoms, or risk causing permanent damage.
For what many people would see as a substantial trial, Anthony LaPolla was able to turn into a triumph.
An electrician by profession, he quit his job in 2005 to launch a car wash business in upstate New York, and quickly built a reputation for top-notch service. But then carpal tunnel syndrome started making it difficult for him to properly clean hard-to-reach spots like rims and meet his high-quality standards.
Determined not to let his condition get in the way of his dreams, Tony got creative. After some serious thinking and experimentation, he came up with a unique brush design that allowed him to easily reach a vehicle's tightest nooks and crannies without straining himself.
From garage to greatness
Tony's design, which featured a modified a toilet brush that could be inserted into a cordless drill, proved immensely popular. When customers began asking him where they could get one like it, Drillbrush was born.
Business really took off when he started selling his brushes on Amazon and joined Amazon Brand Registry – Amazon's flagship brand protection programme that also gave Drillbrush access to a number of brand-building features.
“'Amazon made a huge difference,” says Armin Pekmez, Drillbrush's Finance and Logistics Administrative officer. “Just the amount of eyes you can get with Sponsored products and all the other brand-building features... it gave our sales a big boost.”
A piece of the action
The brand's increased visibility and growing reputation opened all sorts of doors. From humble beginnings, Drillbrush went on to count the likes of Boeing, SpaceX, and the US Air Force among its clients.
Unfortunately, success also brought with it the wrong kind of attention. Once Drillbrush started making a name for itself, bad actors took notice and tried to cash in on Tony's ingenuity and hard work by counterfeiting his products. Eventually, these counterfeits started cutting into Drillbrush's margins.
But dwindling profits were the least of their problems. Worse, the poor quality of the counterfeits meant the brand's hard-won reputation also took a hit.
"Customers would get in touch with us to complain, because the piece that attaches to the drill broke off,” explains COO, Josh Baranowski. “These products did not even have our proprietary design."
Something had to be done soon to get in front of the problem.