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Just flip it!

Tenafly entrepreneur pitches simple solution to annoying problem on ‘Shark Tank’

Steven Epstein pitched his invention on “Shark Tank.”
Steven Epstein pitched his invention on “Shark Tank.”

You know how hard it is to get the last bit of product — food, or soap, or hair stuff, or just about anything else — out of the bottle?

It’s not a burning problem, but it is a nagging irritant.

It’s bothered Steven Epstein of Tenafly since the time he “got out of the shower, and went to use some Lubriderm, and the bottle just hissed and spat at me, and nothing came out, but I could see that there was product in it.

“So I turned it upside down, and put it in a corner and wedged it in, and that already was a nuisance. And then the next night, my wife turned it right-side up. And then the next time I turned it over and squirreled it away at the back of the medicine chest.”

He was able to retrieve the bottle, but he had to take the pump out to get the lotion that had pooled around the cap, and that was a messy nuisance, and then when he put the pump down, he made another mess.

A first-world problem still is a problem — we do live in the first world.

Mr. Epstein thought about the situation, and then “I had my light bulb moment,” he said.

“I invented a sustainable problem-solver.”

His Flip-It screws into a bottle and allows the user to turn it over, rest the bottle on the gadget’s flat surface, and then to flip up the top to squeeze the product out. It’s washable, reusable, and also reduces waste.

“The cap takes advantage of the fact that bottle threads are standard, with very few exceptions, all around the world,” Mr. Epstein said. “You can use it on pretty much any bottle in your home, from the bathroom to the kitchen to the garage.”

The device is useful in some workplaces too; it’s a big hit in hair salons, he said. “Salons typically have one-liter pump bottles on the back bar behind the shampoo bowls,” he said. “What we are finding is that there are two or three treatments worth of product left there. It could be $100 of revenue to the salon. They are amazed when they see what they are throwing out.”

And when you try it at home, “you save time, too; instead of shaking and prodding you are getting every drop that you paid for.”

You also have to buy less and thus to recycle less. “The cat’s out of the bag now,” he said. “Recycling is not working.” (He’s talking about a raft of news stories reporting how China has stopped buying materials to recycle, and that means that much of the market for recycling is gone; it often costs more to recycle than simply to throw stuff out in landfills.) “Municipalities are abandoning their curbside pickups. So the less you have to recycle, the more time and money everyone saves.”

Steven Epstein on “Shark Tank.”

The idea of the Flip-It cap came naturally to Mr. Epstein, he said, because he is “in the contract packaging business. That’s why I am so familiar with bottle threads.”

Mr. Epstein’s family has been prominent in Bergen County for a long time; his parents, Edward and Eleanor Epstein, were among the founders of the JCC on the Palisades. “My mom was the the JCC’s first president, back in the 70s, he said. “And I was the chair of the JCC’s house committee for a period of time.” His parents also founded a vocational high school in Tel Aviv, and were instrumental in founding a JCC in a suburb of Haifa called Neve Joseph.

Mr. Epstein also has done charitable work of his own. He’s a helicopter pilot; he’s flown planes full of supplies to such disaster areas as Haiti, in response to the devastating earthquake there in 2010.

Last Sunday, Mr. Epstein presented Flip-It to the panel of investors on “Shark Tank.” The show offers exposure. “Consumers never have had as much choice as we have today,” he said. “The choice of how we entertain ourselves, where, what, and on which device.” That’s why it’s getting so hard to reach consumers. “They’re scattered across the universe, on cell phones, tablets, with Hulu, Netflix, YouTube, so many other places. How do you find the customer?

“Shark Tank” is a great way. I knew I had to get on there. Getting a deal with one of those celebrities is always helpful. They get doors open faster and wider and for longer than anyone can do on their own.”

So he tried.

It wasn’t easy getting on the show, he said. “I tried three times, and the third time was the charm. I attended an open call in New York last May, almost a year ago. I must have made a favorable impression. I was given two minutes to pitch the Flip It to one of their casting agents.

“In July, I received a phone call that I was slated to move on in the process. In September, I went to Los Angeles to tape it.”

Mr. Epstein was not allowed to talk about the outcome until after the show aired. He knew that he did not come away from the program with a deal, but he did not know that the part of his pitch — “the message about saving time and saving money and being sustainable — was left on the cutting room floor”— until he saw it, he said. “They film for however long it is, and then they chop it down to 10 minutes,” he said. “Unfortunately, I can’t control the script.

“But the exposure was great, and sales have spiked, which is good. The market will be the final arbiter of how good the product is. It is growing, and it is all good.

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