A downturn in the oil and gas industry led a Lafayette man to team up with three co-workers and launch a business that aims to make floors in homes and businesses less slippery.
Felix Dorante started GripOn about a year and a half ago with Roberto Navarro and Leonardo Chavez. The three men, all natives of Venezuela, met about 11 years ago when they were all working in Columbia for oilfield service company Schlumberger.
When the downturn in the oil industry happened about two years ago, Dorante and Navarro looked at setting up their own businesses.
“We all had that safety mindset,” Dorante said. “We saw there was not a common solution to slip and falls, so we decided to put some energy in this project.”
While Dorante was starting his company in Lafayette, where he was based, Navarro was launching a business in Orlando, Florida. The two men decided to merge their businesses and brand themselves across the Southeast as a company that reduces the risk of slipping and falling. Chavez, who lives in Paris, serves as a silent partner.
The GripOn treatment involves spraying a mild acid on floors. That treatment makes surfaces five times less slippery, without changing the appearance or building up ridges that people can feel as they walk across the floor.
“It creates channels in the floor for the water to disperse,” Navarro said. “That way, you are always in contact with the surface.”
The treatment works on a variety of hard mineral surfaces, including tile, concrete, marble and porcelain. Navarro said it takes about 20 minutes to mop the chemicals into the floor, let them soak into the surface, then scrub them off. “It doesn’t leave any chemicals on the surface,” he said.
While pricing for the treatment varies by job and the area covered, Navarro said the costs range between $1.50 to $1.75 per square foot. The minimum charge for the treatment is $500.
About 70 percent of GripOn’s business comes from commercial clients. Dorante and Navarro are looking to get the service in more households. The company recently launched a pilot program in The Villages, a retirement community near Orlando. “That’s the perfect audience, the elderly, because they are really affected by slip and fall incidents,” Navarro said.
Some of the company’s commercial clients include Red’s, the Lafayette fitness club, the Coushatta Casino resort in Kinder and the city of Orlando. GripOn offers a service where it monitors treated floors to make sure they aren’t slippery and will re-treat the surface.
Right now, GripOn has about 10 employees. The company is looking at setting up distributorships with sales teams and installation teams stretching from Louisiana to Florida. “We think in five years, we can have 10 different territories in Florida, two more in Mississippi and Alabama, and six in Louisiana, with about 70 employees,” Dorante said.