For many children, this week marks the beginning of a new school year. But your kids might be bringing back more than homework from their new classrooms — school can be a breeding ground for germs and sickness, especially for elementary school students. As a teacher and a father of two, Gregory Francois wanted to give kids an easy, convenient way to protect themselves against harmful bacteria without carrying around giant bottles of hand sanitizer.
In response to the consistent sickness they saw both at home and in the classroom, Francois and his wife Karen co-founded Armorteria, a health-conscious company dedicated to teaching children about health and personal hygiene with its flagship product, Halo Sani-Cuffs. These colorful wristbands feature kid-friendly characters and a small reservoir to hold hand sanitizer, which is dispensed at the push of a button.
"We thought that there had to be a better way to give kids ready access to methods to clean themselves, in particular, their hands," said Francois, the company's president and CEO. "This was shortly after the time of the Silly Bandz craze, so we thought of this as being the perfect blend — health-conscious kids could feed their need for cleanliness and look stylish while doing it."
With the help of three other friends, the husband-and-wife team began designing the Sani-Cuffs in 2008. As a math and design teacher at Hillcrest High School in Queens, N.Y., Francois was able to include his students in the creative process. This collaboration was mutually beneficial: While the students learned about hygiene, product development and manufacturing, Francois took away a valuable lesson for himself.
"While the success of the company is imperative, it was also about the experience I had working with the kids and my team building the company and the products," Francois told BusinessNewsDaily. "People get so obsessed with making money that they fail to realize what it took for them to get where they are. I may have even learned more from the kids — understanding that it truly takes years of hard work, but it all pays off in the end."
The product was finally launched after three years and was met with positive feedback from children and parents alike. This may seem like a lengthy development process, but Armorteria didn't want a "quick fix" design for its product, because the product itself isn't meant to be a quick fix for children's hygiene problems. The Sani-Cuffs were designed to help kids become proactive and think critically about their health and their future.
"The most important thing is to teach good hygiene from the start and make it fun," Francois said. "Kids will be kids, and oftentimes, they don't think twice about hand-washing. This is why it is necessary to lead by example — making sure you are also following proper hygiene and hand-washing throughout the day can be very effective and impressionable on children."
Francois' company was able to create a practical product that sets a worried parent's mind at ease in regards to their child's hygiene while simultaneously teaching kids to stay healthy and germ-free in a fun, effective way. None of this would be possible without an organized, dedicated team that never lost sight of Armorteria's long-term goal of health education.
Francois advises fellow entrepreneurs to have a good support system in place when starting a business venture.
"I was able to balance everything with help from family and friends who supported us through the process," he said. "You also need to plan and have everything in order before starting. Otherwise, you can get lost in the shuffle."
Francois also encourages entrepreneurs to persevere with the knowledge that there are many obstacles that startups will face, but all of them can be overcome.
Halo Sani-Cuffs can be purchased for $3.99 on Armorteria's website and will soon be carried in select Rite Aid stores. The company also offers its own brand of alcohol-free hand sanitizer to go with the Sani-Cuffs.
Originally published on BusinessNewsDaily.