Gaining Traction in the Snow

Diana Pitsolis

President, Spongezz Inc.

Diana, tell us about Spongezz and what the com­pa­ny is all about.
First, I’d like to begin by say­ing “We’re North Amer­i­can!” We start every dis­cus­sion on our com­pa­ny by mak­ing this dec­la­ra­tion. We’re proud to be a viable busi­ness sup­port­ing busi­ness on this side of the pond. As far as what we do, we’re a qual­i­ty man­u­fac­tur­ing com­pa­ny spe­cial­iz­ing in prod­ucts made of a non-woven or sponge mate­r­i­al. We have a rep­u­ta­tion as new prod­uct inno­va­tors, which is why we’re sit­ting here today, talk­ing about The Arg­onaut Tire Trac­tion Run­ners®. We opened our busi­ness in 1995, pro­duc­ing auto­mo­tive appear­ance prod­ucts includ­ing car wash sponges, appli­ca­tors and syn­thet­ic chamois. Since that time, our prod­uct line and busi­ness have evolved to meet the chang­ing mar­ket and we’re proud to be rec­og­nized with­in our cat­e­go­ry as tak­ing a lead­er­ship role.

And how is that lead­ing into the new prod­uct, The Arg­onaut®?
A cou­ple of years ago, we iden­ti­fied through our research activ­i­ties an oppor­tu­ni­ty for a prod­uct where we could uti­lize our exper­tise in man­u­fac­tur­ing and mate­ri­als. After three years of R&D work, hun­dreds of sam­ples, dozens of in-mar­ket tri­als, and relent­less user feed­back, we have achieved a win­ning prod­uct, “The Arg­onaut Tire Trac­tion Run­ners®”. Inter­est­ing­ly, The Arg­onaut® was cre­at­ed for both the Con­sumer and Com­mer­cial busi­ness­es, where each iden­ti­fied the same need, but for dif­fer­ent rea­sons.

What are the dif­fer­ences between the Con­sumer and Com­mer­cial mar­kets?
For The Arg­onaut®, inter­est­ing­ly, safe­ty is #1 for each seg­ment. Safe­ty for the Con­sumer is “not feel­ing aban­doned, not sit­ting in a cold car, not wor­ry­ing about strangers approach­ing, not being exposed to cold weath­er, not wor­ry­ing about a fam­i­ly mem­ber.” For the Com­mer­cial seg­ment, safe­ty is large­ly “not wor­ry­ing about a met­al or plas­tic trac­tion device going air­borne and hurt­ing some­one or some­thing.”

For many com­mer­cial fleets, Tire Trac­tion Aids are banned because of this rea­son. In all cas­es, when we pre­sent­ed The Arg­onaut Tire Trac­tion Run­ners® to these same com­pa­nies, all indi­cat­ed we addressed the obsta­cle that pre­vent­ed them from com­plet­ing their fleet safe­ty kits. Need­less to say, the dri­vers are more than pleased.

And who are your end users right now?
In late 2010, we approached Cost­co Cana­da on a guar­an­teed sale basis to sell The Arg­onaut Tire Trac­tion Run­ners®. We knew with Costco’s lib­er­al return pol­i­cy and their com­bi­na­tion of con­sumer and busi­ness mem­bers, we’d have a very strong read on how well The Arg­onaut® would sell. We’d get instant feed­back regard­ing the pack­age and posi­tion­ing of the prod­uct and most impor­tant­ly, the over­all “sat­is­fac­tion” of The Argonaut®’s per­for­mance. This, of course, we mea­sured by total returns, which were neg­li­gi­ble. What we learned from this first year gave us con­fi­dence in offer­ing The Arg­onaut® to both the Con­sumer and Com­mer­cial mar­kets with the con­fi­dence that the end user under­stood the prod­uct and that it worked! Today, we sit with dozens of unso­licit­ed tes­ti­mo­ni­als sent to us relat­ing to their use – con­sumer & com­mer­cial.

One of our favorite let­ters came from a cus­tomer in New Jer­sey, writ­ten the morn­ing after a snow storm. The cus­tomer said the two lane street head­ing into town was blocked by a “plow” which was stuck in the snow. She remem­bered she had “The Arg­onaut® in her trunk, so pulled them out, gave them to the dri­ver of the plow, who laughed. After she insist­ed he try them, he did and in her words “1, 2, 3, he was out of the way and back to plow­ing.”

We heard from cus­tomers who bought The Arg­onaut® in places like Cost­co for use in their own small fleets. There were bus com­pa­nies, ambu­lance com­pa­nies and a few school dis­tricts who wrote to let us know they work! This prod­uct is still new and aware­ness is still low, how­ev­er it’s grow­ing.

Get a lit­tle spe­cif­ic about exact­ly what the Arg­onaut® does.
The Arg­onaut® is made from a unique non-woven mate­r­i­al, about an inch thick, and is infused with a com­mer­cial grade strength­en­er. The con­cept is sim­ple: when you’re stuck in the snow, in an attempt to move, engines are revved and typ­i­cal­ly, tires spin. A spin­ning tire gets hot and melts the snow, cre­at­ing an icy sur­face and the vehi­cle doesn’t move. With The Arg­onaut®, melt­ing snow flows right through the “non-woven Trac­tion Pad” with­out inter­fer­ing with the trac­tion sur­face. If the tire has a steady, non-slip­pery sur­face to move on, the vehi­cle will move. The Arg­onaut® is shaped like an arrow fea­tur­ing a point on the front and wings at the back. Each end was designed to assist with the dif­fer­ent posi­tions a tire can be stuck in. The point on the front allows the user to secure the pad against the tire by slip­ping the tip under the tire and rock­ing the tire out of its buried posi­tion. The Arg­onaut® will per­mit snow from beneath to pen­e­trate the under­side of the Run­ner to give extra sta­bil­i­ty when the vehi­cle slow­ly accel­er­ates. The mate­r­i­al is flex­i­ble enough to con­tour to the tire as well. If you are in an envi­ron­ment where the snow is a lit­tle deep­er and your tire is embed­ded, you can place The Arg­onaut® so its wings are against the tire. The Arg­onaut® will then encap­su­late the bot­tom part of the tire and facil­i­tate move­ment out of the snow.

What are you bring­ing to the fleet man­agers in the Unit­ed States and Cana­da right now?
As indi­cat­ed, safe­ty is the #1 issue and keep­ing a fleet mov­ing deliv­ers the bot­tom line. We know The Arg­onaut® works and is a fleet director’s solu­tion in snowy weath­er. We’ve had enough prod­uct expe­ri­ence and feed­back from the com­mer­cial seg­ment to know we’ve got a great new prod­uct. We’d like to make sure they know about it and give them a try.

Elab­o­rate a lit­tle on how this prod­uct will real­ly help fleet man­agers trim their costs, maybe reduce their fuel usage.
We start­ed retail­ing The Arg­onaut® through a com­pa­ny called Tire Craft, which was sup­ply­ing a num­ber of fleets with their tires. Safe­ty is #1, how­ev­er keep­ing the fleet on the road with­out delay is equal­ly as impor­tant. The Arg­onaut® is very inex­pen­sive, quick to use, flex­i­ble, reusable and after use is shak­en free of snow and back in the truck – 5 min­utes and they can eas­i­ly be on their way with vir­tu­al­ly no down­time. We all know the cost of a load sit­ting idle wait­ing for a tow — not to men­tion the cost of the tow – it adds up quick­ly. With The Arg­onaut® this doesn’t hap­pen. There will always be instances where a tow truck is need­ed, how­ev­er greater than 90% are no longer required. Anoth­er thing, The Arg­onaut® is flex­i­ble and can be used as a floor lin­er to aer­ate loads not shipped on skids.

Shar­ing a com­mon sit­u­a­tion, most trucks don’t end up in the ditch, instead they start to break and end up half off the side of the curb. The next thing you know, the two back wheels are stuck. One of our largest fleet cus­tomers shared with us in their words “the dri­ver just sticks The Arg­onaut® under­neath the tire and they’re on their way – a hap­py dri­ver with more cash in their pock­et. This has helped us reduce tow­ing costs and avoid­ed our wor­ry­ing about our dri­vers becom­ing injured by debris fly­ing from spin­ning tires.”

I’d like to add, for a big rig you’re look­ing at two, three, six or sev­en hun­dred dol­lars a tow. Hav­ing a prod­uct like The Arg­onaut® onboard is para­mount to keep­ing a fleet mov­ing.

You cre­at­ed this prod­uct in Cana­da. Have you mar­ket­ed it in the Unit­ed States as of yet?
Dis­tri­b­u­tion of The Arg­onaut Tire Trac­tion Run­ners® is fair­ly scat­tered, with our cus­tomers span­ning wide across the world. The U.S. rep­re­sents our largest mar­ket; how­ev­er The Arg­onaut® is being sold in Cana­da, Swe­den, Korea in 2013,  and even in Abu Dhabi where they’re com­mon­ly used in the desert for recre­ation­al dune bug­ging. Although we don’t endorse use in sand, there are still a few who believe.

Are you famil­iar with the fleet indus­try and how it has been evolv­ing over the last few years?
Our expe­ri­ence with the fleet mar­ket has large­ly come from peo­ple who have approached us look­ing to buy The Arg­onaut® for use in their fleets. We cer­tain­ly use every oppor­tu­ni­ty to learn from their feed­back regard­ing what appeals to them, what didn’t work, what they are look­ing for, what their most con­cern­ing issues are. We have a vest­ed inter­est in the busi­ness­es we cater to and learn­ing what we can about the indus­try is impor­tant to us. We’ve learned a lot, specif­i­cal­ly about the trac­tion cat­e­go­ry which has enabled us to mod­i­fy what we have brought to the mar­ket to assure it’s rel­e­vant and works.

How can fleet man­agers find out a lit­tle more about the Arg­onaut?
We invite any fleet man­ag­er to con­tact us to learn more about The Arg­onaut Tire Trac­tion Run­ners®. We also have a web­site at www.argonaut-traction.com.

BIO

Diana Pit­so­lis, Pres­i­dent of Argo Biz Inc., a sis­ter com­pa­ny of Spongezz Inc. Ambi­tion and cre­ativ­i­ty has been her life­long mot­to, hav­ing suit­ed her well over her 35 year career. Hav­ing spent 25 years in mar­ket­ing and now in man­u­fac­tur­ing, she brings her ideas and mod­el for suc­cess to the fore­front with their first patent­ed prod­uct “The Arg­onaut Tire Trac­tion Run­ners.”®

pitsolis@argobiz.ca

 

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