September '14 Venture Spotlight: Clutch Lotion

Clutch Lotion is an antiperspirant hand lotion designed to keep your hands feeling natural, fresh and sweat-free all day long. The venture is comprised of two UNC and two Duke undergrads - David Spratte, Chris Jenks, Mark Botteril and Kasper Kubica. They joined 1789 at the beginning of the fall semester. Cofounder David Spratte, a sophomore at Carolina, shared his experiences with us.


Tell us how you came up with the idea for Clutch.


The idea for Clutch came from the age-old tradition in the Catholic Church of holding hands during the “Our Father” in mass. In high school, I would watch as everyone around me, including myself, would frantically wipe their sweaty hands against their shirts, pants, programs, and against the chairs in front of them. But as I and everyone else knew, it was of no use because no matter how much wiping was done, our hands would still be sweaty and holding hands would still be awkward. I didn’t try to make a product until I had to hold hands with the girl of my dreams at mass. And yes, it was awkward. And at that point I was done with sweaty hands.


For two years, I conducted a lot of research into a potential product. I began by conducting small experiments in my kitchen after my parents went to bed. Then I started emailing chemists, dermatologists, and others. To actually get responses, I had to start making fake dermatologist appointments. I would bring in a summary of my idea and hand it to the dermatologist when she walked in. All of this and further research resulted in an initial recipe.


What have you done with the idea so far?


I formed the Clutch team this past summer. The formula for our lotion is almost completed, our design is finalized, and the bottles in which we’ll be selling our first batch are on a cargo ship somewhere in the mid-Pacific.


What are the next steps you are working on?


We’ll be making an initial batch of 500 bottles and offering them first to the many people who’ve asked us to email them once the product is ready.  At the same time, we’ll start selling them on UNC and Duke campuses, targeting everyone from athletes to gamers. Our initial primary focus, however, will be on job and career fairs.


 What is the long-term vision for Clutch?


After we gain validation through campus sales, we hope to begin selling through major retailers, and eventually expanding our line to include products such as a sports-specified formula and an antiseptic one.


Clutch is comprised of two UNC students and two Duke students. How did you all meet?


I bonded with Chris over similar chemistry courses that we have taken together at UNC. Kasper, Mark and I met through the Robertson Scholars Program. The project had actually come to standstill after first semester, but the ball got rolling again when I told Mark about the idea during a spontaneous backpacking trip through Central America that we took together. Once we returned, I brought Kasper and Chris on board.


What does each member bring to the team?


Kasper has experience with previous startups, so he is knowledgeable about how to make our ideas happen. Chris is the Walter White of the business. He brings an unbelievable knack for chemistry. Mark is a bold salesman and a great marketer who can grab anyone's attention. Finally, I am the idea man and visionary for the company.


Is there any tension within the team during basketball season?


There has yet to be a basketball season during our existence; however, nothing needs to be said because we all know that the True Blue--the Carolina Blue will always be on top. Furthermore, Mark, a mild-mannered Dookie from the UK says, “I have no reason to get riled up about people bouncing and throwing balls around.”


What’s it like being a full-time student and an entrepreneur?


Kasper speaks for all of us when he says: “In one word - damn.  In two words - damn fun.” Whether we’re doing market research on the bus to class, or comparing international suppliers between physics problems, the contrast of our greatest challenges keeps life interesting.  


Did you plan on being an entrepreneur when you arrived at Carolina?


Not at all.  Simply put, in organic chemistry, I expected to be studying molecular structures…not building a pitch deck. I also have not gotten used to walking into 1789 directly after walking out of the lymphoma research lab... I never saw myself actually doing any kind of startup.


Where do you see Clutch 5 years from now?


It’s honestly too early to say right now, but it is definitely our long-term goal to be in Walgreen’s, CVS, Rite Aid, Target and the like.


Anything else you’d like to tell us?


With our product, you can be confident that your performance—social, professional, and athletic—will be clutch. So don’t sweat it.

An abbreviated version of this interview originally appeared in the 1789 September 2014 newsletter. To read more stories like David's and stay updated on 1789 news and events, sign up for our newsletter here.

Learn more about Clutch Lotion on their website.