It’s conventional wisdom that the best products and companies come from people who were trying to solve their own problems. That seems to be the case with Ryan Doherty and Zach Hines, co-founders of Ripclear, a Bend startup that creates (actually invented) adhesive ski goggle protectors.
Ryan was working at Mt. Bachelor as an inventory controller in 2013, basically making sure that the resort’s various lodges had all the food and beverages they needed to serve their customers. An avid snowboarder, he’d often snowboard between the mountain’s lodges and buildings.
“I was scratching up to three or four pairs of goggles a year,” he says. He thought that there had to be something he could adhere to the front – like a cellphone screen cover – that would prevent the damage. But after a lot of Internet searching, he found exactly nothing.
“So we decided to make it,” Ryan says. Did he have deep experience in the eyeware industry? No. Was he familiar with plastics or manufacturing? Nope. But like many successful entrepreneurs, he and Zach just dug in, made themselves the experts and are now selling RipClear goggle protectors across the country.
A big plastic experiment
The idea seemed easy enough: Create an adhesive goggle cover that would prevent your lens from scratching. But when Ryan and Zach started calling around to plastic manufacturers, the companies told them that making a plastic that would directly adhere wasn’t possible.
“We basically had to find our own plastic, one that would bend and stick,” Ryan says. They tested hundreds of plastics before finally landing on one that works. They designed Ripclear so that you can peel off one paper to stick them to your goggles, and then peel off the second so that you don’t smudge the new lens in the process. That design is now patented.
The pair, who were friends in high school back in Michigan, had some immediate interest from Dicks Sporting Goods. They ran a small Kickstarter to raise money for their first Dick’s order, and bootstrapped the rest of the company.
So many markets
The market has met Ripclear with excitement. “We mostly just have to get our product in front of people; and they have an ‘aha’ moment, like why didn’t this exist before,” Ryan says. The startup has sold 10,000 units in its first year, with a one-pack selling for $15 and a three-pack for $30.
The biggest surprise – and challenge so far – has been determining where to take the product next. Ripclear has garnered interest from the military, who could use the solution to protect eyewear for soldiers; motocross and downhill mountain biking companies and many others.
“We have a three-year growth plan,” Ryan says. “We’d like to get into snow mobile, hockey and football visors, and we’d also like to start selling in New Zealand and Australia, so that we can do business year round.”
Starting the company in Bend has provided not only a venue for testing the product right in Ryan’s background, but also invaluable connections from the town’s growing outdoor startup community. “I think it’s been so awesome,” he says. “We had no idea that there was such a community here. It’s been amazing.”
You can reach Kelly by email at [email protected].