Jason Luhrs was enjoying a sandwich at Triangle Park in Southold one summer afternoon when he witnessed someone in an all-too-familiar stinky situation.
A man was walking his dog when the pet decided to go No. 2. The man struggled to remove a poop bag from its dispenser clipped onto the leash. When he finally grabbed a bag he couldn’t pick up all the droppings at once, having to do the “multiple pile dive,” as Mr. Luhrs calls it.
There had to be a better way.
“It dawned on me that while he was picking it up he was losing his finger dexterity in the bag,” said Mr. Luhrs, 41, of Southold. “Bags are meant to carry things. They’re not meant to pick things up.”
Enter the Shmitt, a plastic glove that’s “taking the ew out of poo.”
The Shmitt, a clever name that combines mitt with a synonym for poo, is made of a similar material as the standard bags. The difference is that the product contains tiny finger sleeves that run from the tip of a person’s finger to the first knuckle. The remainder of the glove is webbed between each finger to create more surface area to pick up the dog’s droppings. The glove is also flared at the bottom so that it can be easily turned inside-out for disposal.
The gloves are thicker than typical pickup bags, which minimizes the feeling of picking up fresh waste. The dispenser is also larger than most, making it easier to remove the gloves, which aren’t perforated like most waste bags.
A combination of air, light and elevated temperatures will also allow the bags to decompose in about a year, Mr. Luhrs said.
“The idea behind it is to make sure it’s quick and easy,” he said. “You don’t go in and handle waste more than you really have to.”
Mr. Luhrs created his first prototype by cutting and taping together a plastic Target bag. He later made a final version just in time for him and his wife, Lisa, to present it at the Global Pet Expo in Orlando in March 2014. He also attended the expo in 2015 and plans to attend again in March.
The expo, presented by the American Pet Products Association and Pet Industry Distributors Association, is an annual tradeshow that features over 1,000 of the newest, most-innovative pet products on the market.
“People saw it and they went crazy; they went absolutely crazy,” Mr. Luhrs said. “We were so inundated after two hours, I couldn’t believe what was happening. We had everybody showing up, looking at the glove, wanting to buy the glove.”
The positive feedback set Mr. Luhrs up with contacts, and eventually he found two distributors — one stateside and one in Europe — that would ship his products, which are made in China.
The next step was finding places to sell the product. Currently, the Shmitt is sold on Amazon.com and is expected to be posted on Target’s website within a few weeks. Mr. Luhrs is also working on selling his product in other stores, such as Petco, in 2016. In addition, it’s currently sold in European stores such as Lidl, Fressnapf and Zooplus.
A dispenser with 15 gloves costs $5.99, a refill pack of 135 gloves is $19.99 and a combo pack with the dispenser and refills costs $23.91 on Amazon.com.
Now, two years after the birth of his idea, Mr. Luhrs is working on cross-marketing the glove by creating the Grit Mitt, a product similar to the Shmitt that can be used for various tasks such as cleaning grills, pumping gas, auto maintenance, painting or staining and more.
But it doesn’t stop there.
Mr. Luhrs, who also sells insurance, wants to use the Shmitt brand to create other pet products like crates, bed mats and towels.
“The pet business, this year they’re projecting that Americans are going to spend $60 billion on their pets,” he said. “That’s where we’re going. I’m basically riding the coattails of this product and trying to introduce new products.”