We talked to Mark Sisson of NanoTouch Materials about the concept of clean based on technology, not toxins.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Mark Sisson: All things considered, we’re doing well and appreciate you asking. From a business standpoint, we’ve got one of the cleanest facilities around since we’re using every one of our self-cleaning surfaces. We like to say, “we eat our own cooking.” And from a family standpoint, we’ve been able to do more things together, whether it’s streaming a new TV series together, eating more family dinners together, or enjoying all the great outdoor activities Virginia has to offer.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded NanoTouch Materials.
Mark Sisson: My business partner, Dennis Hackemeyer, and I had had a previous business together. While at lunch one day, we noticed that cleanliness was on the minds of a lot of patrons, ranging from a mother wiping down the table with disinfectant wipes to patrons using paper towels to open the door handle to the restroom. We realized that no matter where you go, people are concerned about cleanliness. So, eight years ago, we set out to change the current state of the market. Not only did we want to create products that used technology rather than toxins, but we also wanted the approach to be visible. We wanted people to know where the cleaner touchpoints were in a facility because they could see them. We founded NanoTouch Materials in 2012, and two years later, introduced NanoSeptic Self-Cleaning Surfaces, a technology we have been evolving ever since.
How does NanoTouch Materials innovate?
Mark Sisson: Our business was and continues to be fueled by innovation. We have spent years researching and perfecting the materials and ingredients, thanks in part to a $2 million research and development grant from the Commonwealth of Virginia. We have become a leader in self-cleaning surfaces, utilizing nanocrystal technology to turn dirty, high-traffic touchpoints into continuously self-cleaning surfaces for clients in all industries where hygiene is a priority, including Fortune 200 companies, health care facilities, medical schools, pharmaceutical companies, hotels, airports, government, and professional sports leagues, to name a few. We currently have nine patents pending.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Mark Sisson: From a day-to-day standpoint of running the business, like most businesses, we’ve replaced travel with Zoom meetings and taken extra precautions to ensure our employees feel comfortable while at work. Regarding our products, the coronavirus pandemic has made everyone more mindful of hygiene and cleanliness, whether it’s using hand sanitizers, wearing masks, or increasing cleaning. Our business has grown as facilities across the world strive to be as clean and safe as possible. We hear more and more from our customers that our self-cleaning surfaces are a critical component in strategic planning for “the new normal.”
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Mark Sisson: There were some moments early on when we looked at each other and wondered whether we could ever bring our products to market. There was a lot – a lot – of trial and error. We learned that our belief in what we were doing and staying true to our mission was crucial in getting through some of those early setbacks. Now that our products have been so warmly received and we’re experiencing growth, we face new challenges in managing this meteoric growth.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
Mark Sisson: Even though we’re based in Central Virginia, I’m fortunate that I live on a farm, and that gives me the opportunity to enjoy nature, being outside and being active. And while it’s stressful managing an overwhelming volume of orders, it’s tremendously rewarding to be thanked by so many businesses for helping to create a cleaner environment.
How do you project yourself and NanoTouch Materials in the future?
Mark Sisson: A few years ago, our technology earned a pair of awards from the ISSA (International Sanitary Supply Association), beating out products from the biggest players in the market. In just a couple of years, we’ve gone from bringing our ideas to market to taking orders from world-class companies that are using our products in nearly every industry. After all this time and hard work, we’re honored to be thought of as the gold standard in self-cleaning surfaces.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Mark Sisson: We’ve been at this for eight years, and that has helped us become the market leader. There have been some new players entering our space due to the pandemic, but frankly, these companies just seem to be trying to take advantage of the current state of panic. We’re staying focused on the continued evolution of our product line and the technology for the long term. As I mentioned, we have nine patents pending, so we’re not resting on what we’ve accomplished.
Your final thoughts?
Mark Sisson: We’re so excited by our continued growth and acceptance in the market and look forward to helping every facility create a cleaner environment for the benefit of their tenants and guests.
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