StepNpull is a foot-operated door opener that mounts onto bathroom and interior doors. The product allows people to open doors without having to touch anything.
The company’s co-founders said the boost in sales coincided with the increased attention to cleanliness earlier this year.
“The beginning of the year started out pretty strong as far as sales,” Mike Sewell, co-founder and president of StepNpull, told The Missouri Times. “In January and February we were on track to have another bump in sales, and then the first week of March hit, and sales exploded literally overnight. Exploded might even be an understatement.”
Sewell said sales in March were 20 to 30 times higher than the norm and estimated total sales for that month were higher than sales numbers from the 13 years they had been in business combined.
“When we say it took off, it took off,” said co-founder Ron Ely. “We planted the seeds for this idea years ago, and we had no idea how in-demand it would become.”
The company does business with several major organizations, with StepNpull installed in facilities owned by the NBA, NASA, Google, Walmart, and the Missouri State Capitol. The product is also sold internationally.
StepNpull also recently joined Buy Missouri, an economic development initiative focused on promoting Missouri-based businesses and products. Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe called the product a “dream made real” on social media.
The company was founded in 2007 by Sewell, Ely, and Kelly Coddington.
“All three of us worked for a wireless carrier together here in Springfield, Missouri, and in 2007, we noticed a lot of people used paper towels to grab the door handles in bathrooms, so we started collaborating and coming up with different designs to try and fix the problem,” Sewell said. “Kelly came up with the design, and we refined it and basically came up with the product that we sell today.”
Sewell said the company learned many lessons over the past 13 years and has continued to grow despite some initial hurdles.
“The first five years were pretty flat on sales; we were selling maybe 1,500 units a year. But the last seven years, sales started increasing year over year,” he said. “One year we had a 90 percent increase, so it had started to grow. It started as a side business for us because we all had full-time jobs, but it’s grown so much in the past few years.”
Most of the manufacturing occurs in Missouri, according to Sewell, and the product is largely made from recycled materials.
Sewell said most customers heard about their product through word-of-mouth, according to surveys collected by the company.
“It was interesting to see that, when we had way more orders than we ever had in the history of the company, we predominantly found that people heard about us from a friend,” he said. “It wasn’t like people Googled it. It was word-of-mouth and brand recognition.”
Sewell quit his telecommunications job and shifted his attention to the company in June, noting that the boom in sales allowed StepNpull to become his full-time job.
“We just had to put more focus into the company,” he said. “It was such a unique opportunity for us.”
He runs the business with Ely, who retired from the telecommunications field recently, and Coddington, who maintains a part-time job with the company.
The co-founders emphasized the recent success of the company benefited others in their community during this volatile time.
“Something we’re really proud of is the fact that it hasn’t just been about us,” said Sewell. “We’ve got this product that can actually help mitigate the spread of the virus, and we’ve also been able to keep a lot of people employed. In the machine shops we work with, there are probably 30 to 50 people that have been able to keep working because we’ve had so much work to do, and we hired an additional seven people to our staff as well.”
Sewell said they were employing consultants to help with the company’s expansion and keeping food on the table for all their workers was a highlight of their recent success.
“That’s probably been the best part of all this for us,” he said.