When the swine flu was at its peak in the first few months of 2010, Andrea Lisbona was in the earliest stage of developing a hand sanitizer company. Lisbona saw the opportunity to capitalize on the increased demand for disinfectant products from concerned consumers, but instead of scrambling, she took a breath.
“I didn’t want to rush and be perceived as a short term businessperson,” Lisbona tells Forbes. “I always thought reinventing an industry needed to take time. I was launching something already on the market, but I was making it better.” So she took the next eight years to join a startup accelerator, find a solid manufacturing partner to help with equipment and FDA testing, and eventually launch a company called Touchland. Today, Touchland sells what it calls Power Mists: pocket-sized, stylish iPhone-looking hand sanitizer sprays meant to bring a whole new trifecta to the hand sanitizer industry by being aesthetically eye-catching, moisturizing on the hands, and properly disinfecting.
Ten years later, Lisbona—and her company—are in a vastly different position than they were the last time a quickly-spreading disease gripped the world’s attention. By the time the coronavirus surfaced in Wuhan, China, in January, Touchland had already found a groove with consumers, having finished its first full year in business with $2 million in sales and on the brink of announcing a $1.75 million second seed round of funding.
For as quickly as Touchland had been scaling, the coronavirus is spreading faster, so Lisbona and her team have had to make some adjustments to the company’s operations this year. The company halted production in China and moved all operations to Zobele, a manufacturing company based in Mexico that also serves as one of Touchland’s investors. Lisbona traveled to Mexico earlier this month to ensure production was being ramped up after 250,000 Power Mists were sold over the two-week period of February 20 to March 5. Largely due to this two-week influx, the company sold three times the amount of units in February that they sold in January. Touchland officially sold out of products on March 5, and anticipates it will begin re-shipping orders to the more than 25,000 customers on its waiting list by the end of this month.
“We wanted to maximize product availability for as many people and as fast as possible,” says Lisbona. “We’ve ramped up production to three shifts a day at the maximum capacity.” Her plans to meet increasing demand at the moment go as far as double capacity of production, but “this is a never ending process and we’re constantly adapting to demand and growth,” she adds.
Touchland’s waitlist isn’t the only example of the heightened demand for hand sanitizer: Earlier this month, the price of Purell spiked to $149 a bottle on eBay; New York governor Andrew Cuomo announced the state’s incarcerated populations would make the state’s own hand sanitizer product; and luxury brand LVMH is converting three of its perfume manufacturing facilities for the same purpose.
In a time where price hikes for sanitary products have become a norm, along with panic-buying and stockpiling, Lisbona has no plans to alter the $12-apiece cost of her Power Mists. And to prevent bulk-buying, she’s placed a temporary purchase cap of $400 per customer.
“We’re trying to avoid opportunistic distributors that just want to make money short term,” says Lisbona. “We just want to focus on our customers that trusted us before the outbreak.”
In an effort to maintain that trust, Touchland has opted out of using the coronavirus in any of its product marketing so as not to suggest that the use of its products are a preventative method to contracting the coronavirus. But they indeed meet the requirements for an effective hand sanitizer: Power Mists’ solution is comprised of 67% alcohol—above the CDC’s recommendation.
“There’s a lot of fear right now, and brands need to be fully transparent,” says Lisbona. “I think that people deserve to have accurate information.”