StepNpull: A $300,000 Idea from Springfield

A product born of practicality in 2007 met new, unprecedented demand in 2020—and an appearance on Shark Tank. President Mike Sewell reflects on StepNpull’s steps.

By Jennifer Johnmeyer

Sep 2021

Ron Ely, Mike Sewell and Kelly Coddington
Photo by Leah StiefermannRon Ely, Mike Sewell and Kelly Coddington launched StepNpull in 2007. Purchase Photo

Biz 417: Where did StepNpull originate?
Mike Sewell: Kelly (Coddington), Ron (Ely) and I were working together and wanted to be able to open doors while moving items. Kelly came up with the idea of something that allowed opening the door by stepping down and pulling with your foot. StepNpull was born in 2007.

Biz: How was business early on?
M.S.: We had low expenses. We turned a nice profit, but it was a side business. We kept our jobs. We got orders for restaurants, entrance doors. Everything changed in March 2020.

Biz: How much did demand increase?
M.S.: Our sales multiplied by 70. Not 70 percent, 70 times. By mid-March, we already had a 10-day lead time. We found a second manufacturer in Joplin in addition to our Springfield manufacturer (StepNpull is predominately manufactured in the United States), but it still took two to three months to catch up.

Biz: How did you handle that much change in the middle of COVID-19?
M.S.: We had jumped to hundreds of emails every day. We got a business consultant, who advised us on accounting, a customer
database, website upgrades and savings. Then there were other worries. “Are we considered an essential business? Will we be shut down?” Ultimately, we were able to stay open.

Biz: How did Shark Tank come into the picture?
M.S.: Shark Tank finds product a few ways (applying through their website, auditions and proactively reaching out). Shark Tank thought we might be a good fit for the show and asked us to go through the approval process. Fortunately, we were chosen to pitch. With COVID-19 restrictions, only one of us could go, so it ended up being me. I couldn’t even watch reruns beforehand. I was so nervous, but I knew if I could get through the pitch, the rest would flow.

Biz: What was Shark Tank like?
M.S.: That is a top-notch operation. Everyone was great. It was pretty exciting to see three Sharks come in and start bidding, especially Kevin [who ultimately won the deal with a $300,000 investment and 6 percent stake].

Biz: How has this experience been for the three of you?
M.S.: It’s hard to believe in little bitty Springfield, we invented a product that so many people wanted. We did the best we could, and it turned out that was alright. We wouldn’t change a thing.