Like some other inventions, the idea for SneakERASERS came to Chris Pavlica out of desperation.
This one might get the inventors’ product on Walmart store shelves nationwide.
In the spring of 2016, Pavlica, a film director, flew from Los Angeles to Atlanta to give a presentation Coca-Cola executives. After landing, he went to his hotel room to get ready for the presentation. He got out his jeans and button-up shirt with no problem, but he stopped dead in his tracks when he reached for his sneakers.
His Nike SB’s, the grey, black and white spotless anchors of his outfit, got scuffed up in his luggage. With 20 minutes to go before his presentation, he fumbled through some makeshift ideas (quickly deciding that he wasn’t going to use his only toothbrush on his shoes) and finally went with some hand sanitizer on a tissue, a messy but somewhat effective solution.
After his presentation, Pavlica called Kevin Consolo, and SneakERASERS was born. Pavlica and Consolo came to know each other in 2003 when they lived two doors down from each other in their freshman year dorm at Ohio University, a self-proclaimed “blessing from the rooming gods.”
The two had always bounced ideas back and forth throughout the duration of their friendship, but now they had a product that they felt they could develop quickly. As the two started planning out a framework, Pavlica’s childhood friend and sneaker expert Nick Wax joined the fold.
“(After Chris called me) I flew out to Los Angeles a couple of weeks later,” said Consolo, 34. “We actually made our first order on our products right after that. Like any entrepreneur, we started out of our garage and did an assembly line and had some friends (work on it).”
The trio began to research ways they could create a proper and effective sneaker cleaner. Eventually, they settled on a pre-moistened foam.
“You don’t need a sink or towel, and you don’t need to do any kind of deep cleaning,” Consolo said.”With some other (products) you have to plan it out like, ‘OK, I’m going to wear these shoes in a couple of days but I have to let them dry.’ With our product you can actually just keep the shoes on her feet. … It’s like a Tide to Go pen for your shoes.”
The trio anxiously packed up their product and headed out to a sneaker trade show in Los Angeles, not knowing what the expect.
They sold out in two days.
SneakERASERS got its next break in a competition put on by Walmart. It was one of 10,000 companies to compete for a chance to get their product on Walmart store shelves nationwide. Of those, 479 made it to the second round, which guaranteed them a 30-minute interview with a Walmart product buyer.
After the presentations, each company was given a postcard that indicated their next step, with choices ranging from working towards having their product being put on Walmart.com to arranging a follow-up meeting. SneakERASERS’ card said they had been approved to potentially be placed on Walmart shelves.
“We’re still in the early stages and everything has started to move so quickly that we almost don’t believe it’s quite true,” Pavlica, 34 said.
SneakERASERS currently has two warehouses, in Anaheim, California, and Buffalo, New York, with plans to add a warehouse in Columbus. The company’s Anaheim warehouse doubles as a nonprofit community rehabilitation program that hires disabled workers.
A planned third location, in Columbus, would not only serve as a hub for the product, but for the founders as well. Pavlica currently lives in Los Angeles, Wax, a 34-year-old Ohio State graduate, lives in Columbus, and Consolo, the director of sales and co-founder of the Columbus-based FTI Brands, lives in Charlotte, North Carolina.
In addition to SneakERASERS, the group is also working on AutoERASERS, a specialty sponge that would remove scuffs and dirt from a car’s exterior.
Ideas that once served as dorm room hypotheticals are now being created for the world’s biggest retailers.
“I feel like if we weren’t in our mid 30s, I don’t think we would be making the right decisions,” Pavlica said. “I feel like we are now.”