Springfield, MO

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The StepNpull is an aluminum bracket affixed to the bottom of a free-swinging door that allows a person to open the door with his foot.
The StepNpull is an aluminum bracket affixed to the bottom of a free-swinging door that allows a person to open the door with his foot.

Co-workers' invention puts squash on germs

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Mike Sewell isn’t alone in his bathroom habits.

He and many other people use paper towels to grab bathroom door handles to avoid germs.

“They don’t want to touch the handle, so it leads to trash on the floor, it leads to excessive consumption of paper products, and it seems like there’s got to be a better way to do it,” Sewell said.

The “better way” for Sewell and two colleagues – Ron Ely and Kelly Coddington – was to invent StepNpull, an aluminum bracket affixed to the bottom of a free-swinging door, allowing a person to pull open the door with their foot. The trio formed KRM Innovations Inc. in October and are selling patent-pending StepNpulls for $19.95 each on their Web site, A purchase includes mounting screws for either wood or metal doors and a sign that directs people to use StepNpull.

“This is a neat little invention,” said Clay Goddard, assistant director for Springfield-Greene County Health Department, after seeing the product.

“Doorknobs and telephone receivers and those sort of things are definitely great vectors to carry viruses and bacteria,” Goddard said. “I can definitely foresee (StepNpull) having an impact, but it’s hard to know how much of an impact.”

The desire for a germ-free escape from bathrooms was the catalyst for inventing StepNpull, but Sewell said the product could help people open doors when their hands are full, too.

“There is a need beyond the bathroom,” he said.

The three business partners, who work for Alltel Wireless at the company’s Springfield administration offices and call center, 3330 E. Montclair St., have contacted local hospitals and retailers with hopes of scoring future sales. They’re also looking for a local manufacturer to mass-produce the product by the end of the year.

At Alltell, Sewell is operations manager and Ely and Coddington are engineers. Their StepNpull work has nothing to do with their Alltel work, Sewell said, though they’ve installed four prototypes on bathroom doors in their office.

They received positive feedback from center manager Martha Norton and other Alltel employees, Sewell said, so last week they sent a few StepNpulls to Alltel’s corporate headquarters in Little Rock, Ark.

The trio came up with the idea about four months ago and quickly contacted attorney Joe Johnson at Lathrop & Gage LC to get the ball rolling on securing a patent. So far, they’ve spent a couple thousand dollars on the patent process and expect the self-funded startup effort to total about $10,000. The full patent process could costs in upwards of $25,000.

Even with StepNpull’s simple design, a patent, if awarded, could be effective in protecting Sewell, Ely and Coddington from competition for 20 years, Johnson said.

“The patent is going to be broad enough that it will hopefully provide coverage for any modifications to the device that are within reason,” Johnson added. “You can design around (StepNpull) by making a large, complex, heavy and expensive item, but the selling point here is that it’s easy to manufacture, inexpensive to manufacture, and it’s easy to use.”[[In-content Ad]]


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