Austin startup Cleanicity goes to the mat to clean up dirt
Carol O’Brien calls herself “an aspiring clean freak.” So it makes sense that she launched a company that develops products for clean freaks.
Last year, she and husband Craig founded Cleanicity, an Austin company that takes ordinary cleanliness-oriented products, infuses them with the latest technology and adds a designer’s touch. Cleanicity’s most popular product is the Kitty Litter Gripper Mat, which traps cat litter and keeps it off floors and carpets.
Carol started Cleanicity after leaving a marketing job at Babson College in Massachusetts. She was interviewing for a different position when it hit her: “I just don’t want to do this anymore.”
What did she want to do? Set up her own company.
“When my kids were born, the desire to do something entrepreneurial grew even stronger. I wanted the flexibility to spend time with my children while also fulfilling my need to create and grow something—a product, a brand, a successful business,” says Carol (photo), CEO of Cleanicity.
Carol’s personal quest to create innovative products—particularly ones that would keep her house cleaner for a longer period—spawned Cleanicity. At home, she would rework industrial products for her own needs. Then friends began requesting the products.
Carol says she and her husband initially focused on something he knew about from his work in purchasing for a pharmaceutical supply company—something known as a “sticky mat.” Craig’s high-tech customers used them to keep dirt out of cleanrooms.
Early on, she talked to friends, relatives and potential customers to shape products. “We tried and tested ideas, tossed out some and finally landed on products that struck a chord with our informal focus groups,” Carol says.
Aside from the Kitty Litter Gripper Mat, Cleanicity currently sells the Sports Matter Mat and the Dirt Catcher Car Mat. Since March, the home-based business has sold about 100 of the kitty mats. The kitty mat sells for $25.99 and up, depending on the size.
Here’s how the Kitty Litter Gripper Mat works: The mat features 30 layers of clear adhesive film that captures cat litter on its sticky surface. When the top layer is full, cat owners remove it to expose a new, clean layer. To attach the mat to the floor surface, white adhesive strips are adhered to the bottom during manufacturing.
Cleanicity is in talks with pet retailers in Texas about stocking the kitty mats, Carol says. Eventually, she says, the company would like to expand distribution beyond the Internet to retail stores in Texas and around the country. Meanwhile, Carol and Craig are toying with concepts for other “clean freak” products.
“The biggest challenge for me is staying motivated through the ups and downs of entrepreneurship. There are many days when the frustrations and disappointments are enough to tempt me to go back to my marketing career,” Carol says.
“One piece of Nike-esque advice from Babson President Len Schlesinger regarding entrepreneurship has helped me stay on track, though. To paraphrase, he suggests you give yourself a timeframe and an amount you’re willing to spend. And then just ‘do it.’ Give everything you’ve got to your idea. These parameters help free me from the constant worry about the risks and let me focus on building my company.”
For now, Carol is the only full-time employee of Cleanicity. Craig works part-time for the startup. However, as the company’s sales grow, Carol envisions the need for additional staff so she and Craig can concentrate on product development. “That will need to come in time, though,” Carol says.
To view a demonstration of the Kitty Litter Gripper Mat, click here.