How I sold my cleaning company for 6 figures and reinvested it into my non-toxic fabric protector company

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David Zamarin DetraPel Founder
David Zamarin
Founded: August 2013
No of employees: 8
Location: USA
$120,000 Revenue/mo

Meet David Zamarin, the founder of DetraPel. Based outside of Boston, the company manufacturers non-toxic fabric protectors to help prolong the life of car seats, sofas, shoes — or any other belonging that you love. What’s unique about DetraPel is that they deliver climate conscious products containing zero cancer-causing fluorochemicals, while packaged up in materials that contain zero harmful propellants.

Since starting the company, DetraPel has won various small business competitions and secured offers from 4 out of the 5 Sharks on the hit show Shark Tank. Today, the company turns over 120K per month and now employs 8 talented people who are helping push the business to new heights. 2020 is going to be a big year for growth, so we chat to David to find out more.

Who are you and what brand did you start?

My name is David Zamarin and I am the founder of DetraPel. My company is based outside of Boston and we manufacture non-toxic fabric protectors that help prolong the life of your favorite belongings. Whether you want to protect your car seats from accidental coffee spills, your favorite white sofa from your clumsy cranberry-juice-drinking sister, or your brand new shoes from an appearing-out-of-thin-air muddy puddle, DetraPel has got you covered. Our powerful, planet-friendly, cancer-free protective coatings are designed to use on any fabric item.  

You could say we’re in the business of protection, which is why we stand by our slogan, ‘Protect What You Love’. This phrase to us means so much more than protecting the stuff you own. Unlike many of our competitors, we deliver climate conscious products, which contain no cancer-causing fluorochemicals (like PFAS) and deliver state-of-the-art packaging that contains zero harmful propellants. This way you can protect the things you love, while protecting the people, pets and planet you love too!

Since its inception, we’re proud of the positive attention that DetraPel has garnered. From winning various small business competitions to securing offers from 4 out of the 5 sharks on the hit show Shark Tank, our loyal customers and fans have validated to us the importance of our greater mission to create a business that helps everyday consumers while contributing to positive change.

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How did you come up with the idea, brand name and logo for DetraPel?

I got the idea for DetraPel back when I was a sneaker-head freshman in high school and I wanted to keep my shoes clean. I come from a low-income background, so I really cherished my valuables, especially my sneakers. I had the idea to create a film to peel off whenever my sneakers got dirty, but I didn’t know anything about chemistry.

Mentors from my youth entrepreneurship program suggested that I start with something simpler so I started a shoe-cleaning business instead. With persistence and hard work, the shoe cleaning business became successful. I sold it for six figures and was able to reinvest that money into the R&D for DetraPel.

Over the next few years I developed a formula that helps repel liquids and block stains, and best of all is completely free of harmful fluorochemicals found in competitor products.

Describe the process of launching DetraPel

As you can imagine, developing the first line of DetraPel repellents was a huge challenge for a 15-yr-old with no chemistry background.

Luckily, I’ve always been driven no matter how daunting a project I’ve set for myself has been. When I was a freshman in high school, I became really interested in nanotechnology. I began researching it profusely and became fascinated by it as a potential basis for a stain repellent formula. 

Being resourceful, I reached out to the brand new Singh Center for Nanotechnology at the University of Pennsylvania, where I met a leading researcher in the space. I was concerned that the University of Pennsylvania would own the intellectual property so I reached out to a friend who has a PhD from Drexel University. 

Through him, I was able to acquire access to the labs and lab equipment I needed and then I spent my entire summer working on a formula. When I finally created one I was happy with, I hired a manufacturer. 

The manufacturer added a 1-2% proprietary part that was crucial to the product we were trying to sell. Unfortunately, 8 months down the line they went bankrupt and refused to disclose the 2% proprietary ingredient. This was a huge setback for my company which was just preparing to sell product. 

I had to go on a long hiatus to try to re-engineer the formula. Lots of blood, sweat and tears, but 3.5 years later I announced my new formula which had some slight changes but all the efficiency of the first formula — and more. Today, we are proud of our new formulas, which are 100% sourced and manufactured in the United States.

DetraPel on Shark Tank

Since launch, what has worked best to attract and retain customers?

One of our biggest successes to date has been our appearance on Shark Tank in January 2018. Shark Tank has a national audience of about 10 million people. This type of exposure was invaluable to our brand and allowed us to acquire thousands of recurring customers overnight. Of course an opportunity like this is hard to come by as there is an average of 45,000 applicants each year. 

What we learned from our experience on Shark Tank is that any type of press can be a good catalyst to get the ball rolling and allows for excellent brand exposure. That said, you cannot solely rely on one big break to continue to attract and retain customers.

The process of actually attaining and retaining customers is hard work. Digital marketing is insanely competitive and can get very expensive. At this time we spend money on Facebook, Instagram and Google ads, but we’ve chosen to double down on the methods that give us the best ROI. For example, we know that it typically takes a few months before seeing growth from paid digital. Instead, we have spent our time on SEO which yields the highest return along with remarketing. At the beginning, it is important to allocate a budget where you can test several methods and see which yields the best return.

One method that consistently brings in sales is our email marketing campaigns. Sending regular monthly emails to our subscribers always guarantees a spike in sales on our website, thus it’s very important for us to do this on a consistent basis (not to mention we like reaching out directly to our customers and spoiling them with goodies and promotions). We normally send campaigns once a month, but are aware that it is recommended to do more. We are working on expanding our team to do this. Each new customer that purchases from us is automatically added to our email list, and conversion from there is typically high since the customers are repeat customers.

In 2020, one of our goals is to continue to increase brand exposure and to get our product directly in front of our consumers through retail shelves. We have been investigating and are in talks with several trade shows this year, and look forward to interacting with potential consumers and getting instant feedback from our direct target markets.

With regards to business growth, how have things changed from a digital, revenue, customer and sales perspective?

While the company was founded in 2013, it was 2018 that was the first profitable year for DetraPel. Just after appearing on Shark Tank, the company generated over $500K in revenue. Since then, our customer base has grown to include over 25,000 individuals, and this year we are on track to generate $125K in revenue per month.

How is the business doing today and what does the future look like?

Today, as a company, we’re busier and happier than ever. The past year has been one full of growth and new developments. We went from a 3 person team to an 8 person team, from a 4,000 square foot facility, to a 12,000 square foot facility, acquired an outstanding team of investors, and managed to bring all of our manufacturing and development in house. 

All of these changes were made to facilitate our vertical integration, the rebrand of our company, and the development of our improved formulas which were released at the end of 2019 in brand new, planet-friendly packaging.

Since our recent relaunch, we have been making great strides to focus on sales and marketing, specifically to grow the B2C side of the company. By improving our outreach to everyday household consumers, we intend to grow the brand and improve traction on the B2B side of the business. We see our products being used at the manufacturing level across a multitude of industries from clothing to furniture and more.

What’s been the biggest learning experience since starting your own brand?

As a young entrepreneur, one of the things that I’ve learned is the value of hiring experienced individuals and creating a well-rounded team. 

When I first started out, I had a team of hard-working peers. Together, we hustled and learned a lot through trial and error. However, as the company began to grow rapidly, I had to hire more people to join us. 

I went from hiring primarily college students to building a team of individuals with more work and life experience. I couldn’t tell you what a difference it has made for the overall benefit of the company to have a diverse team.

Individuals from diverse backgrounds offer different talents, skills and experience. This sparks innovation, growth, and allows employees to learn from one another. Young entrepreneurs such as myself who are growing a business might be worried about the costs involved with paying higher salaries for experienced team members, but the salary is a small price to pay for a more productive and cost-effective work environment. Among our management team, today I’m proud to have several accomplished individuals who through their expertise add extraordinary merit to our company. 

What are some of your favorite online business tools you use to run DetraPel?

For the B2C segment, DetraPel primarily functions as an e-commerce business at the moment. As a result, the most important online tool we have is our website. Recently we made a strategic decision to switch our website platform from Wix to WordPress. Though our company loved the design aspects of Wix and the ease with which we could make updates and changes to our website, we realized it was hurting us from an SEO perspective and through lack of integration ability. 

Today, our new website is fully integrated with all other important software programs that run our day-to-day, such as our accounting, shipping and CRM tools. These integrations save time in our operations and promote a more accurate flow of information.

*Find full list of tools/platforms in table at the bottom of the page.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts or other educational resources?

The Education of Millionaires by Michael Ellsberg is a fantastic book that helped me when I started my entrepreneurial journey by showcasing so many successful entrepreneurs who built their own education systems around their work.

Another great book that really shaped how I run my business is Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos. This book teaches you the importance of knowing what and who matters for your business and how to build a meaningful and exceptional culture around that. For me, that was my team.

I regularly like to read and listen to a variety of podcasts and books to continue my education.

Who have been the most influential people for you during this business journey?

Throughout my entrepreneurial journey, I’ve been fortunate to have many incredible mentors. If it wasn’t for my early mentors, I would not have started by first real business. If I can give any advice to an aspiring entrepreneur, it’s definitely to surround yourself with as many mentors as you can while you grow. Through mentorship, you can often receive good advice, but also you can save time by learning from their mistakes. This is not to say that you won’t still make mistakes on your own, but at least you’ll steer clear of many that have been made by like minded people before you.

When it comes down to it though, my other source of influence and inspiration is my mom. Growing up, I watched her hustle daily to overcome the challenges of single parenting and immigration. She sacrificed everything to provide a better future for me and my brothers. This motivates me every day to think about putting others before myself which has had a lasting impact on DetraPel’s company culture. It’s thanks to her that we pride ourselves on putting people before profit. It’s our guiding philosophy and the reason why we create non-toxic formulations and maintain chemical transparency across our business channels.

DetraPel team photo

Any advice you’d like to share for other aspiring entrepreneurs?

My first rule always is: Get Shit Done. We have a board in our office with 3 mottos written on it:

1. Get Shit Done.
2. See #1.
3. We don’t fail, we learn.

Getting shit done is really what separates the entrepreneurs from the “wantrepreneurs”. I have met countless people who have had incredible business ideas and done very little about it. Starting any type of business for the first time is overwhelming and many people fear the unknown. But it isn’t until you can overcome that fear and take risks that you will ultimately stand a chance at being successful.

Making mistakes is also a huge part of the journey and you’ll never stop making them, but each one is a learning opportunity. You can imagine that when I became a teenage entrepreneur, I didn’t know everything I needed to know about business, and I’m still nowhere close. But not dwelling on my mistakes and learning from them allows me to be more and more efficient and effective each day. It’s really important to keep moving forward. And yours aren’t the only mistakes you can learn from. I value all of the brilliant expertise and experience I can get from my mentors.

Do NOT shy away from help. Chances are there are people out there who have gone through or are going through the same challenges as you are. At some point you have to cut the ego, the more gratitude and humility you show, the more likely people will be willing to support you.

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Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now or open to new investors?

We welcome all conversations with new investors. At this present time, our primary hiring needs are for sales & marketing positions. We are always on the lookout for talented people who are interested in joining the DetraPel family. Any and all resumes should be sent to info@detrapel.com

Where can we go to learn more about your current offers/promotions/programs?

All of our ongoing offers and promotions are sent out directly in our monthly email updates. We invite anyone to subscribe on our website at www.detrapel.com. New customers can enjoy 10% off their first order with coupon code newfriend10.

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