Family chemistry set to pay dividends for enterprising sisters | Crain's Charlotte

Family chemistry set to pay dividends for enterprising sisters

A pair of sisters in Charlotte hope to use their father’s genius in chemistry to revolutionize some common consumer products. And based on the welcome response by some of the country’s biggest retailers, Donna and Deborah Seeman may well make their mark as entrepreneurs.

Their father, Daniel, is a chemical engineer who likes to tinker in his spare time. While developing cleaning products for high-tech manufacturing, he came up with an idea for a hand cleaner that the sisters commercialized. Later, he developed paint-stripping products and another line aimed at killing odors. That’s the basis of RevoTek, which the family started in 2015. The company is based in Charlotte near the airport.

Donna Seeman is CEO; her sister is COO. The PaintErase line of stripping products stems from the elder Seeman’s background in coatings. The wiping cloths in the line can be used to lift off spilled or misapplied paint from moldings or other surfaces. It’s equally effective on latex and oil-based paints. The Stripper Gel, launched in May and picked up by Lowe’s, is a nontoxic compound that will remove up to 10 layers of dried paint in 20 minutes.

To show how far removed the product is from traditional paint strippers, Donna dips her hand into the tub of gel without fear of chemical burns. It also lacks the volatile organic compounds that make many strippers harmful to humans and pets.

Daniel Seeman developed the product for use by his wife, an interior designer who stayed busy with projects.

RevoTek’s other main product line is FumairX, which is carried by Wal-Mart. The aerosol version doesn’t mask odors the way air fresheners do. Instead, it chemically bonds with an odor to stop its release into the air. It’s also available as a vent clip to eliminate odors from car interiors. “Feces, urine, vomit, cigarettes – we love that stuff,” Donna Seeman says.

The manufacturing is outsourced to MVP Group’s plant in Elkin, N.C. RevoTek’s product line has created up to 10 jobs there, and with Lowe’s picking up the stripper gel, the company’s output should grow.

David Burch, vice president of finance at MVP, says being accepted by Wal-Mart and Lowe’s is an admirable accomplishment by itself. Creators of products must be able to demonstrate the superiority of their wares to items currently stocked to win favor from a big-box retailer.

Burch says RevoTek products are selling well, based on the steady production MVP does for the company. He became convinced of the validity of the claims of the company’s paint-stripping line when he was refurbishing a house. It had about 20 electrical outlets and switches with unwanted paint. While Burch was replacing a single switch, his daughter used PaintErase wipes to clean all the rest.

“It really works, and paint comes off just as well as with the harsh crap I used to use,” he says.

Beside household use, RevoTek hopes the gel will find commercial application in renovations of historic buildings that need lead remediation. That job traditionally is done with sandblasting, an expensive process that can damage brick and other surfaces. The gel, however, doesn’t require the environmental precautions that blasting does and generates far less waste.

Donna Seeman says the gel is available in 500 Lowe’s stores now and should reach 1,000 more by October. A 32-ounce tub retails for $11.98. A Lowe’s official declined to comment about the product.

Another product is a hand sanitizer that will hit Sears stores in July.

Seeman wouldn’t disclose finances but says revenue is on track to double this year from 2015 and double again in 2017.

She attributes the company’s success to date to family chemistry. “I push my father and he pushes me,” she says. Her mother, Roberta, died in 2008 from cancer. Her nickname was Papillon, and she’s remembered on all RevoTek products with the image of two hands in the shape of a butterfly, along with her initials. “If MacGyver and Martha Stewart had a child, it would be me,” she says.

June 23, 2016 - 7:28pm