By Barry Frey, RBI2 Mentor

Chefs and individuals working in kitchens are subject to knife cuts to their fingers when slicing foods. RJ Batts knew this first hand because his father is a chef and sometimes came home with deep cuts on his fingers, some of which required medical attention.  RJ, with encouragement from his family, knew a protective product could be developed to protect chefs and household cooks from the injury and pain resulting from knife cuts.  This would reduce ‘lost time accidents’, saving restaurants money.

So, at the age of 13, RJ set out to design a device to shield fingers up to and above the second knuckle.  He worked on sketches and 3D prototypes to develop the device. Holes were added to make cleaning and sanitation easy.  Prongs were added to the base to hold food in place during the cutting process. Tip Tough® was born.

Soon after, RJ was accepted into the local chapter of the Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!), hosted by the Salisbury (MD) Area Chamber of Commerce.  He worked with YEA! weekly for six months, developing business skills, establishing his company – Picklehead LLC, and receiving advice from local business leaders.

Several beta versions of the metal Tip Tough® were manufactured in 2016 and sold locally.  RJ proved to be a natural salesman, selling 400+ in the first four months. RJ pitched on the StartUp Maryland Pitch Across Maryland competition and was named “Fan Favorite.” In the fall of 2016, Tip Tough® won start-up funding from Salisbury University’s Shore Hatchery Competition. In addition, Picklehead received grant support from TEDCO’s Rural Business Innovation Initiative to refine the design for manufacturability and to develop a corresponding plastic version of Home Chef Tip Tough®.

“We would not be where we are today if it had not been for the support of TEDCO in the development and manufacturing of the Tip Tough®,” said RJ.  “We were able to accelerate into the national marketplace with TEDCO funding and mentoring.”

 TEDCO President John Wasilisin with Picklehead founder RJ Batts and his mother, Lori Batts.

In March 2017, RJ traveled to the International Home and Housewares Show in Chicago to launch the Tip Tough® in the Inventor’s Corner.  He pitched to industry professionals, demonstrated to buyers and wholesalers, met other inventors, and made important business connections. “It was hard work but worth it,” he said. “All the feedback was positive and we are currently talking to several companies who want to carry the Tip Tough® as soon as we get it off the line. The Pro Chef Tip Tough can’t get here soon enough,” said RJ.

The first production run of 10,000 metal Pro Chef Tip Tough® is underway with a deliver date of June 1st. The plastic version will be launched later this year.  This product will be manufactured in the USA and in Maryland if possible.

Remember – cut your food, not your fingers with Tip Tough®!  To learn more about RJ and his product go to www.tiptough.com.