When it’s time to give your dog a bath, Tom Zipprian says you really need three hands to get the job done — one to control the water, another to control the pet and a third to do the bathing.
But while our furry friends have four legs, the owners only have two hands. Zipprian, a Carroll County native, and his college classmate, Daniel Lentz, came up with a solution. Rather than giving humans a third hand to do the job, they came up with a tool — the Aquapaw — that fits on one hand but does the work of two.
“The Aquapaw solves that issue by attaching directly to the hand, and allows you to control the flow of water with a button embedded in the palm, which puts you back in control,” Zipprian told the Times. “And when you're comfortable and confident your dog is going to notice that, too, which makes bath time a lot less stressful for them as well.”
Zipprian and Lentz, the co-founders of the Aquapaw bathing tool, recently pitched the product on the hit reality television show “Shark Tank,” and the episode will air at 9 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 13, on ABC. “Shark Tank” features entrepreneurs pitching their business or products to a panel of potential investors.
The two attended college at Virginia Tech and had been tossing the idea around since then. “And one day driving home from work [Lentz] had the ‘A-ha!’ moment and the rest was history,” said Zipprian, who didn’t come up with the idea, but as a professional design engineer turned it into a real, functioning product.
The light blue sprayer-scrubber “paw” slides over the hand and has a flexible 8-foot hose at the bottom that attaches to your shower or an outside garden hose. It can be turned on or off by making a fist, giving the user easier control over water flow without taking eyes off their pet.
“[Lentz] provides the vision and I just help makes sure everything is engineered and produced to live up to his expectations,” Zipprian said.
Aquapaw also makes a slow treat feeder, which can be used to persuade pets to get into the bathtub and keep them there. It works by spreading a treat like peanut butter or canned cheese onto the rubber nubs at the center, then suctioning it to a smooth surface. The nubs will slow down how long the treat lasts — ideally long enough to get your pet bathed.
Going on Shark Tank, which was taped in September 2017, was “without a doubt … the most stressful thing I’ve ever done,” Zipprian said.
“Have you ever heard the sound of your own voice and it makes you cringe? Now imagine that, but this time it’s a video, and 7 million people are watching,” he explained.
Aquapaw was among 40,000 applicants for the show and Zipprian said they were lucky enough to make it through with some exposure from an online crowdfunding platform.
“You basically go through a sequence of increasingly embarrassing tests until eventually you are pushed out on the stage in front of the 'Sharks,’ someone in the back yells ‘Go!’ and its showtime.”
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Because of disclosure agreements, Zipprian isn’t allowed to talk about the outcome of the show, but said viewers should keep an eye out for a “pretty animated exchange” between himself, Lentz and one of the Shark Tank’s panelists, Robert Herjavec, one of the original personalities on the show, now in its 10th season.
Regardless of the outcome, Zipprian said the exposure from the show “will certainly help, but honestly it’s just a great product and I think it could help a lot of people save time and money.”
Aquapaw can be purchased at Ace Hardware and various independent pet stores nationwide, according to Zipprian, and is also available online at Amazon, Chewy and www.aquapaw.com. The tool retails for $24.95.
Zipprian grew up in Carroll County, graduating from North Carroll High School in 2002. His parents, Jeff and Lisa, still live in Carroll and Zipprian said he makes it back several times per year. After attending Virginia Tech, he bounced around the country, living in Atlanta, Milwaukee and, presently, San Francisco.
“I've always been kind of a gearhead, maybe that’s the country boy in me. I went to school for product design but sort of fell in love with engineering,” Zipprian said. “I started off designing watercrafts for Yamaha in Atlanta, then motorcycles in Milwaukee, and now electric motorcycles in Santa Cruz.
“I never thought I'd be into [electric vehicles] but after your first ride, they have a way of changing your mind.”
While he didn’t expect to be engineering electric vehicles or pet bathing tools, Zipprian said he was pretty fortunate to have a good idea of what he wanted to do early on in his life, and a family that supported his vision “regardless of how stupid it seemed at the time — so I owe many of my accomplishments to them.”