SALISBURY, MD – When middle schooler R. J. Batts started brainstorming about how his dad, a restaurant chef, could protect his fingers at work, he wasn’t thinking of fame and fortune. “I just wanted my dad to stop cutting his fingers so often,” said Batts, now age 15 and a high school freshman. “He sometimes needed stitches, and it hurt to work. No one should get hurt doing what they love.”
But now, Batts is finding that he’s not only invented a product that makes kitchens safer for professional and home chefs, he’s becoming known for it. Some of that fame is coming his way at the 33rd Annual Maryland Small Business Week Awards, where he’s being honored by the Maryland Small Business Administration (SBA) as the 2017 Maryland “Rising Star” Student Entrepreneur of the Year.
“It’s exciting to invent a product and even more exciting to see it come off the line and begin selling,” said Batts. “Then, to find out on top of that you’ve won an award from your state’s Small Business Administration? Amazing. I am very honored, especially in relation to the other people receiving awards. It’s very encouraging.”
Making Kitchens Safer One Tip Tough at a Time
With the support of his parents, Lori and Bob, R.J set out to invent a product that would shield his Dad’s fingers as he cut, chopped and diced food. While working on sketches and 3D prototypes, Batts hit upon a simple yet effective way to shield each finger thoroughly up to above the second knuckle – the areas most exposed when using kitchen knives.
He continued to improve the product, first by adding prongs to hold food securely in place. Then, to make the product sanitary for professional kitchen environments, he decided to forge the “Professional” version from sturdy stainless steel, adding a series of holes to provide access for thorough cleaning.
The Tip Tough® was born.
Soon after he had a working concept, Batts was accepted into the local chapter of the Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!), hosted by the Salisbury (Md.) Area Chamber of Commerce. He worked with YEA! for six months, developing business skills, establishing his company – Picklehead LLC – and receiving advice from local business leaders.
Accolades and funding followed. In 2016, Tip Tough won start-up funding from Salisbury University’s Shore Hatchery Competition and received grant support from TEDCO. Tip Tough was also named “Fan Favorite” in Start Up Maryland® Pitch Across Maryland competition.
So … Picklehead?
Tip Tough is a Batts family endeavor, so when R.J. thought about naming his company, he used a childhood family nickname. “My Dad called me ‘Picklehead’ when I was younger. I like that as a company name it includes food – which my products work with – but it also reminds me to not take myself too seriously and to appreciate that I could only have gotten this far with my family behind me.”
Located in Salisbury, Maryland, Picklehead LLC is committed to quality products that add value to people’s lives, and to supporting other local and regional companies. Tip Tough is proudly made in the USA. Available in both Home and Professional grades, Tip Tough is moving into retail and commercial distribution nationwide.
Maryland Awards Part of a National Celebration of Small Business
In recognition of the small business community’s contributions to the American economy and society, the President of the United States designates one week each year as National Small Business Week (April 30- May 6, 2017.) In the run-up to the spring event, the U.S. Small Business Administration, in partnership with public and private sector small business supporters, co-sponsor special events honoring the nation’s entrepreneurs at the local, state and national level.
The highlight of the National Small Business Week is the presentation of the awards spotlighting the outstanding contributions of small business persons and advocates at the district, state and national levels. The Annual Maryland SBA Small Business event is the SBA Baltimore District’s premier event designating the district level winners for National Small Business Week.
Batts will receive one of 14 awards being given at the ceremony which will be held at Martin’s West in Woodlawn, Maryland on June 8. For more information about the awards visit http://mdsbwawards.org.
For more about Batts and Tip Tough, visit www.tiptough.com and follow on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter under Picklehead LLC.