STAFFORD – A Manahawkin man’s connection with zombie apparel led him to inventing the Furzapper which will be showcased on the April 9 episode of the ABC TV show Shark Tank.
A few years ago, Michael Sweigart created an invention that picks up animal hair. He works in advertising and marketing, but he’s been working from home and typically, he’d be doing the laundry for the family.
“I’d do a wash and dry load every day and we had three animals in the house and all the laundry would still be coming out with all this fur on it. It was clean fur that had gone through the washer and dryer but the clothes looked unkempt because there was so much hair on them. So, I tried to find a solution,” Swiegart said.
He checked online and with various pet stores and asked around “and everyone said you’ll just have to live with this in all your clothes. Everybody I talked to that is just what they did. I tried everything nothing really worked,” Sweigart added.
Throughout his career, Sweigart has always dabbled with other hobbies and business interests and one of them helped him develop the Furzapper. “A few years ago, I was working at Frightfest for Great Adventure as a makeup artist. I would go in and make up all the zombies and clowns and all that, put masks on people. I had some familiarity working with silicone and experimenting with different mask-making techniques for fun.”
When Sweigart had dropped one of the silicone masks that had ripped on the ground he picked it up and noticed “there was hair all over it. This stuff just attracted hair like a magnet. I took that big chunk of zombie mask and threw it in the laundry with my clothes and it tumbled around and then I threw it into the dryer and it was tacky and soft enough to grab the hair but it didn’t hold onto the hair permanently. It wasn’t all stuck to it.”
Sweigart said the substance tumbled around in the laundry and pulled it off the clothes and then dropped it into the lint trap. “At that point I said I think I have something here. Let me experiment some more. I have always been a gadgeteer and literally have a book that I’ve written down of invention ideas I’ve had over the years. I bought a bunch of different kinds of silicone and a couple of different thicknesses, sizes and shapes and I came upon what we have now which is this nice round disk that is shaped like a paw.”
“As it tumbles through it pulls the hair off. With that kind of home-made invention, I made a mold for it out of it watching how to do it from a YouTube video and made some prototypes,” he said. Friends and family told him everyone needed this and asked how much he would be selling it for.
After doing some research on a patent he went to an attorney, Harry Levin, and found it was “very patentable and now we have several patents. His attorney not only provided him legal advice but was so taken with the concept that he joined him as an investor and partner in the company and currently serves as its vice president.
“We’ve learned a lot. I built a website which is what I’ve done for a living at that point. We put it on Amazon and also got orders from there and were selling a couple hundred a month,” Sweigart said.
It was a Walmart newspaper advertisement that got things rolling even further.
The full-page ad announced that Walmart was investing in American businesses. Apply now and get your product into Walmart. “We applied and were accepted and long story short they loved it, and said they would like to have our products for sale.”
“Everyone I talked to said this would be a great Shark Tank product and I said, ‘yeah it probably would be.’ Being so busy with every aspect of the business I didn’t have time at first to fill out this monstrously long application.”
He said that it took a year before his partner and members of his staff finally filled out the application “and then COVID hit.”
He and Levin made a professional video to promote Furzapper for Shark Tank, a reality show where entrepreneurs pitch their unique products before a panel who decide if they wish to invest in them.
“We never expected to hear anything. We figured we’d be lost in the shuffle but surprisingly we got short listed,” Sweigart said. Last September he spent 10 days in Las Vegas for what was a seven-minute segment on the show and he was impressed. “We were 100% quarantined, locked in our rooms for about 10 days or so. It was rough but it was show business.”
Sweigart said, “they did a great job protecting everybody including everyone behind the scenes as well. They treated us like royalty and it was surreal,” he added. He couldn’t reveal the details of his appearance on the show but said it was an exciting and rewarding experience and that another Furzapper product would soon be added to the list of products that his company is providing in its never ending battle against to animal fur and hair in the household.