SVP Blog Series: DetraPel
DetraPel is an amazing product that you can be sprayed on anything to make it water repellent, like a pair of shoes or a sweater. The company is run by a team of four, and headed up by David Zamarin (interviewed here), a sophomore at Babson College. Recently, they are excited to have raised some funding, and are looking to expand through a more consumer-focused orientation. However, the company currently has a number of large, industrial partners, and expects to grow a great deal over the next year.
When did you initially have your inspiration for this business?
I come from a low-income family in Philadelphia and my mother had just got a new job, and I got my first pair of Jordan sneakers. I was really excited, and then annoyed that they got dirty. So I decided to come up with a solution. Initially it was a shoe-cleaning business, which I sold shortly after growing it to $25,000 in monthly revenues. I then had this idea to make a liquid repellant spray for shoes. That summer I got access to a lab in which I could do tests to try and create the product. I started the company sophomore year of high school and it was on the market by the middle of the year.
How did you get involved with the Summer Venture Program?
Since I chose Babson for its entrepreneurial learning environment, I immediately got involved with the Blank Center, and was cohort leader for the Butler Launch Pad. When someone mentioned Summer Venture Program, I had already been accepted to a different accelerator, but decided to attend SVP instead, since it gives you the space and time to work on your company.
Were there any particular programs or workshops that helped you?
We had started thinking about accepting some funding to grow the business, and there was a VC funding workshop led by David Chang. It was very useful when I flew out to meet a few potential investors who host a television show about investing. We thought that after the show aired we would probably get more orders, so we needed funding for inventory. Afterwards I told my mentors and they asked if they could buy some equity in the company.
Did SVP grow your network? How?
One particularly helpful event was demo day, where you showcase your business to around 500 people. A lot of people enjoyed the product, and there were a number of people from different backgrounds. We also met a lot of people at WorkBar, a coworking space in Boston where SVP was held over the summer. People would hear you working on something and come over and give you feedback.
Did you experience any failures in your entrepreneurial process? Did you have a moment when you were frustrated?
Most of our problems were “backend problems”, like financial record keeping. When we ran into issues like that the SVP staff gave us resources and connections to people who could help us out. We are finishing up all of our reorganizing, so we are ready for what’s next. We also had some issues with our formula, mainly manufacturing related issues. We were told by our mentors to keep pushing, and that we could get through it, and we eventually got it figured out.
Was there anything that the Summer Venture Program provided that was indispensable…that was particularly “Babson”?
I think the most Babson part of this was the hands-on mentors with experience. It wasn’t just people with a lot of book knowledge telling us what to do, it was legit people who have been there, and worked on the same problems we were dealing with, in one way or another. My designated mentor was Beth Goldstein, who is amazing. She didn’t judge me on my problems, but instead helped us come up with solutions.
What do you think your business will do going forward, will you stay at it?
Before this time, we’d been focusing on Business to Business, and now we want DetraPel to become a household name too. So we are going to focus our marketing dollars on Business to Consumer, a new segment for us, in order to raise brand awareness and then approach businesses, mainly large, industrial companies, and sell them more product, since they will have heard of our product. We are also working on some big deals, such as one with a car manufacturer, and one with a large movie theatre chain.