From buzzing bracelets to ‘Kooty Keys’: These start-ups are popping during the pandemic


KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Experts have said the average person, even during the coronavirus pandemic, touches their face up to 23 times per hour.

“One of the best ways to stop the spread of the virus is to avoid touching your face,” Justin Ith said.

So Justin Ith had a flash of genius. He retrofitted his new innovation, called the Immutouch, to help people stop touching their face.

“It’s a wristband that I have right here, and it basically vibrates every time you’re about to touch your face or when you do touch your face,” Ith said.

Originally, Ith fashioned his innovation to help people with disorders like compulsive hair-pulling and facial fidgeting.

“So the idea is to bring that otherwise unconscious behavior to the forefront and help people be aware and break that bad habit of touching their face,” Ith said.

Ith’s product, the Immutouch, like dozens of others, went from obscurity to overnight success during the COVID-19 quarantine.

“Blowing up is a good word for it,” Ith laughed.

The Immutouch wristband sells for $49.99.

While restaurants, bars, and movie theaters are facing an existential crisis during the quarantine, a niche market of COVID-inspired gadgets is surging.

“For four years I wasn’t really making any money,” said Ken Kolb, inventor of the Kooty Key.

You may have seen ads on social media for the key. It’s a durable plastic hook made of anti-microbial material. There’s also a rubber knob for the keypads at checkout counters.

“I suffered viral meningitis in 2005, so I don’t want to go through any of this again,” Kolb said.

Kolb said he sold roughly 3,000 Kooty Keys in all of 2019. Over the last month or so, he estimates he’s sold about 100,000.

“My wife and I were in Florida, all of a sudden my phone starts dinging with orders,” Kolb told FOX4. “And then I had a couple local news stations here in Detroit that wanted to talk to me about it and then all of a sudden my orders start going crazy.”

The Kooty Key sells for $10.

And of course, the rush on toilet paper, at the outset of the quarantine, resulted in a massive surge in interest for a bathroom utility mostly associated with luxurious European mansions.

The bidet.

Miki Agrawal founded her bidet company, Tushy, in 2014. She said her business racked up $10 million on sales in 2019. She was hoping to top $20 million in 2020.

“But then in March, with the great toilet paper shortage of 2020, we had our first million dollar day,” Agrawal said.

Agrawal believes her product, like so many other innovations during this unusual time, could become more widely accepted in the months and years ahead.

“And so it’s time that this sort of stigma be lifted and change and disrupted,”Agrawal said. “And this obvious way of washing oneself be adopted by Americans once and for all.”

Tushy sells a wide range of bidets from around $30 to $100.

Sales are also on the uptick for electronics to help turn your home-office into a home studio, with the proliferation of video conferencing, on platforms like Zoom.

“When you’ve got a great image and you’re able to deliver quality I mean it sets you apart right now,” said Mike McNamara with Talent Boulevard. “It sets you apart significantly.”

McNamara said with an investment of about $150, anyone working from home can turn their office into an impressive video portal.

“If it looks like a Skype call from 1995, that’s where you think the content is coming from,” he said.

McNamara bought a lighting kit on Amazon, an HD Logitech webcam and a microphone to give his professional presentations an edge during the pandemic.

As the famous saying goes: The medium is the message.

“Do you want people to be focused on you? Listening to what you’re saying and getting the message? Not drifting off working on something else.”

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