KleenWraps’ story began in 2014. At the time, my mother was a commercial tile saleswoman in Philadelphia and I, a first-year law student in New York City. When I would come home on school breaks, my mother and I would take turns using the elliptical wedged behind our couch. Despite being blood, we were irked by the warm, wet sensation we’d get when we used the machine right after one another—and we had a feeling we weren’t the only ones.
We tried paper towels, but the waste piled up. Then we switched to gloves, but these became cumbersome when trying to use our phones (and only furthered the spread of germs—one accidental forehead wipe would bring all the nasties from the elliptical to our eyes, nose, and mouth). From here, our initial prototype was a Frankenstein beer koozie, but both its material and shape were not conducive to killing germs or throwing in the wash. After studying different kinds of materials and grips, connecting with sewn apparel veterans, and tinkering on possible designs, we came up with and patented (US9,901,771, D812,700, and D813,323) the KleenWraps products that our customers now know and love.
Despite our efforts, we had trouble generating traction in the fitness industry. Gyms were worried that offering personal protection to members would create the image that their space was unclean. With large-scale sales on hold, we turned back to our day jobs. Having struggled to gain financial independence and stability, it simply wasn’t prudent for us to risk it all. For me, that meant building my legal skills as outside general counsel to fashion brands and start-ups. For my mom, that meant continuing to sell for commercial construction companies.
All of that changed on March 16th, 2020 when my mother and I joined the now 38.6 million Americans unemployed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to rising unemployment, the pandemic also brought a renewed consciousness to public health and hygiene. People were worried about going outside—let alone interacting with shared surfaces. With nothing else to lose, we picked up the torch, pivoted our product to a broader market, and haven’t had a day of rest since.
Though this has been an extremely difficult time for many, including ourselves, we feel grateful for the opportunity to provide others with peace of mind and a sense of empowerment to live life without fear.
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