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HOT COMMODITY: StepNpull's ownership team, from left, Mike Sewell, Kelly Coddington and Ron Ely, have seen sales for their foot-operated door opener skyrocket in 2020.
SBJ photo by Jessica Rosa
HOT COMMODITY: StepNpull's ownership team, from left, Mike Sewell, Kelly Coddington and Ron Ely, have seen sales for their foot-operated door opener skyrocket in 2020.

Business Spotlight: Unprecedented Foothold

In one month, Springfield-based StepNpull outsells 13 prior years

Posted online

2020 has proven to be the right product at the right time for StepNpull.

“We sold more in March than what we sold the whole time we’ve been in business,” says StepNpull co-owner Mike Sewell. “It’s like a nuclear bomb has gone off in our business.”

StepNpull is a patented hands-free door opener, now in high demand amid the global spread of the coronavirus. The metal plate mounts perpendicular to the bottom of bathroom and interior doors – for users to step on and pull to open.

Sewell and business partners Kelly Coddington and Ron Ely couldn’t have predicted the need when they made the invention 13 years ago. They just wanted to slow the spread of germs back then.

“We’ve been shell-shocked for the last two or three weeks trying to get our head around what’s going on,” Sewell adds.

The numbers help explain. The home-based Springfield business more than doubled its monthly units sold in a day’s time in March.

“We went up from 1,000 a month to 2,000 to 4,000 a day,” Coddington says of the national and international sales volumes.

The 4,000-unit sales day is an all-time high, hit in mid-March.

The business partners are coming off a record year, too. They sold roughly 13,000 units in 2019, up over 44% from the prior year to net an all-time high $336,000 in annual revenue.

So, they’ve thrown out the sales projections for this year. Sewell says it’s possible StepNpull could now sell 150,000-200,000 units in 2020 – and that’d be an increase of at least 1,000% over 2019.

Shipping frenzy
Overseas orders are nothing new. Buyers regularly are from Australia, South Africa, Hong Kong and China.

But with the volume of additional inquiries, the StepNpull owners plan to soon hire help to facilitate and grow its foreign distributor deals.

Due to current high demand, there’s a lead time of 10 business days. Normally, Sewell says product would ship in a day.

“We’re sending orders out every day,” he says. “It’s just we’re trying to catch up on orders that came in about 10 days ago.”

Some customers are requesting the company ship product overnight, regardless of the cost. The owners decline those requests, saying they won’t place one customer over another.

“We’re not going to change the way we’ve done business now or ever,” Ely says. “We’re the same business we were two months ago.”

But to handle the production increase, the company now utilizes two manufacturers. In addition to Springfield-based Precision Metal-Tech LLC, which can produce around 1,000 units a day, Sewell says Metal Tech Midwest Inc. in Joplin has been brought on board to produce up to 3,000 units daily.

‘Handy’ product
The company has thousands of clients, Sewell says, including Boeing Co. (NYSE: BA), Coca-Cola Co. (NYSE: KO), Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F), Walmart Inc. (NYSE: WMT) and NASA. O’Reilly Automotive Inc. (Nasdaq: ORLY) and Great Southern Bancorp Inc. (Nasdaq: GSBC) are among the local clientele.

“They’re handy. They give a lot of peace of mind, if nothing else,” says Doug Marrs, vice president of operations at Great Southern.

He says the StepNpull product is sprinkled throughout bank’s 100-plus branches across 11 states. In addition to the local business connection, Marrs says the products offer low costs and easy installations.

“We don’t have to call for an outside vendor or anything. It’s almost an off-the-shelf item for us,” he says.

Amazon.com is the biggest source of StepNpull sales, at roughly 50%, Sewell says. Another 35% is from StepNpull’s website, and the remainder of purchases are through distributors, such as home improvement retailers Lowe’s Cos. Inc. (NYSE: LOW) and Menard Inc.

While the company operated in the Efactory between 2015 and 2017, the remainder of its existence has been home-based, Sewell says. He expects the business will scale up in the future, but how much is unknown.

Sewell says other products to complement the door opener are in the design phase.

But now, much like the rest of the world, the owners await a new normal, once the coronavirus crisis passes.

Sewell, for one, expects COVID-19 to cause a cultural shift in behavior to avoid spreading germs.

“StepNpull is just a small part of that. But I believe people are starting to become accustomed to having that as an option to pull a door open,” he says. “For a long time, they’re going to think twice before touching a door handle even after COVID-19 is long gone.”

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