Home Fairfield Southport entrepreneurs peel off eggstra special kitchen gadget

Southport entrepreneurs peel off eggstra special kitchen gadget

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Sheila Torgan and Bonnie Tyler, creators of The Negg. Photo by Phil Hall.

A couple of years ago, Bonnie Tyler found herself facing an existential crisis — or, to be more precise, an eggs-istential crisis.

“I was invited to a cocktail party and I was to bring a dozen deviled eggs, which seemed reasonable at the time,” recalled Tyler, a website designer. “But I couldn’t get the eggs to peel and I just can’t stand to have a problem like that. So, the next morning, I got online to buy an egg peeler, because I thought someone must have figured it out by this point.”

Alas, Tyler found there was no consumer product specifically designed to peel a hard-boiled egg. There were products for the commercial culinary market and Tyler noticed they all shared a similar design. “They rolled the eggs forward on steel bars, they shook the tray back and forth and they hit it with water.”

Tyler called on fellow website designer Sheila Torgan to help create a consumer-friendly product that could peel an egg. After producing what they considered a feasible concept via computer-aided design software, they sought to bring it to life via a 3-D printer at the Westport library in early 2016. However, there was a catch.

“We had to take a two-hour class on how to use 3-D,” Torgan said. “Our instructor was 11. We were there making an egg peeler and he was making a prosthetic hand for his class.”

After going through seven prototypes, Tyler and Torgan had a model that they felt could work: an enclosed 4-inch canister that can be filled with one hardboiled egg and one-quarter cup of water. After closing the canister and giving it a few shakes, the peel is separated from the egg.

“Water gets through the membrane, which creates all of that problem,” Torgan added, noting that this method prevents the egg from being picked apart with the cracked shell. “It sort of looks like a hot mess.”

Although Tyler initially planned to make the product for her own kitchen needs, she and Torgan quickly recognized there might be a market for this item. They dubbed the product The Negg, short for “naked egg” and inspired by a childhood malapropism by Tyler’s younger daughter who mistook “an egg” for “a negg.”

After successfully filing for a patent and trademarking their product on behalf of their Southport-based Airigin Solutions LLC, Tyler and Torgan began looking for a U.S. manufacturer to mass produce their design. Their initial efforts were discouraging.

“What we found out through this whole process is that we’re sadly lacking in the manufacturing business in this country,” Tyler said. “We did all sorts of phoning around to find somebody who could do this, and it was stunning.”

Eventually, the duo settled on MPS Plastics in Marlborough, Connecticut, to handle the production. To help fund their endeavor, they launched a Kickstarter campaign in the autumn of 2016. And while that effort failed to reach its goal, the partners realized their potential market was more studly than they anticipated.

“We thought that we’d be selling this to 40-plus housewives,” said Torgan. “But when we saw the profile pictures of the people who came out for us on Kickstarter, we saw the most handsome, fit men that I’ve ever seen in my life. And I was wondering, where are all of these men coming from? It was the paleo market, the CrossFit market, fitness and health-conscious consumers who needed to peel an egg, regardless of gender.”

Tyler and Torgan quietly began selling The Negg online in December 2016, and a second attempt at Kickstarter in April 2017 succeeded with $35,000 being raised. Also in April 2017, The Negg was picked up by TheGrommet.com website that specializes in household gadgets. The site’s initial offering of 1,500 units sold out within two hours.

“They called up for 4,000 more,” Tyler said. “It was the fifth-largest launch they had.”

To date, The Negg is available in more than 300 retail stores, primarily smaller outlets where the product can benefit from in-store demonstrations. “You say that it peels an egg and people look at you like you’ve grown another head,” said Tyler. “But when they see it work or someone behind the counter says, ‘Oh, no, it does work,’ it helps to have that hands-on.”

Between retail and online sales and fueled by press coverage, including NBC’s “Today” and The New York Times, Torgan estimated that 300,000 units of The Negg have been sold, and the website for The Negg has been expanded to accommodate recipes and trivia related to eggs. Looking ahead, the partners confirmed plans to pursue other egg-related products.

“I think the expansion into all things eggs is where we’re going to be,” Tyler said.

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