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Phoenix companies release pandemic-related products, tout services for businesses

By Corina Vanek – Reporter, Phoenix Business Journal

Dec 24, 2020, 10:45am EST

Social Straps was created by a Paradise Valley mother and daughter who wanted an easy way to keep track of masks. TIDA RADEVSKI PHOTOGRAPHY

Kathy Bain’s husband is battling two different kinds of cancer, so when the novel coronavirus pandemic began to force closures and require people to wear masks to slow the spread, she knew she would be confined to her home, but still needed to wear a mask often.

“We can’t go anywhere, but I always needed a mask,” she said. “I was always looking for my mask, because you put it down and then you leave it somewhere.”

She had the idea of a lightweight strap that could go around the wearer’s neck and hold the mask in a convenient place when the person has to take it off. She and her daughter, Lindsey Kohn, ordered some fabric strips and snaps and began making their product, called Social Straps, themselves.

Bain is one of several business owners who have reacted to the pandemic to create businesses or build on services that have become more commonplace during Covid-19.

“I just want to get the product out there,” Bain said. “They make fantastic giveaways for corporations. They can have their logo on them and they end up being about $2 per strap.”

Bain has already done many large orders for companies that are giving the straps to their employees to wear with their masks or using them as promotional giveaways for customers.

“My husband was wearing his strap to a doctor’s appointment, and all the doctors and nurses there were asking where he got it,” Bain said. Her bread-and-butter is now the corporate orders, and companies often order hundreds of straps at a time to give away.

“It’s so nice when employers send you something,” she said. “They’re thinking of you when you’re working from home.”

She started by making the straps at home, but she had a friend in the retail business who helped connect her with a manufacturer. Bain still operates the business out of her Paradise Valley home.

“We didn’t have to put much into starting the business, the company pays us for the order and we pay the manufacturer, there isn’t a lot of overhead,” Bain said.

Software solutions

For retailers who accept credit cards but want to avoid the fees merchants have to pay, Scottsdale-based MiCamp Solutions is hoping their Wav-It program will help merchants that have already been affected by the coronavirus downturn keep a little more of their revenue.

“For a lot of merchants, their margins are small,” Gary Jeppesen, COO of MiCamp, said. The program creates an automatic cash discount for customers paying cash, but customers paying with credit cards are changed the full price, which includes the fee normally paid by the merchant. Accounting for credit card fees can be cumbersome, especially for smaller businesses affected by the pandemic, and the program can make the process streamlined, and cash customers will see the cash discount on the receipt.

“We created a program that will work with a smart register that seamlessly manages the cash discount,” Jeppesen said.

Businesses using the program pay $39 per month, which is the only fee they incur, he said, compared with $300 to $400 per month a merchant could pay in credit card fees. Wav-It was already operations for years before the pandemic, but it has become a tool for retailers who are looking to save as much as they can because of the losses the pandemic brought.

“We saw a need for merchants to not pay these credit card fees,” Mandi Bonicelli, director of ISO Channel for MiCamp said. “It stops penalizing the merchants by paying for the credit card rewards for the customer. Instead of raising your prices as the business owner, they can have a discount for people who are paying in cash.”

Companies using the technology range from larger businesses like car dealerships to retailers and restaurants, Jeppesen said.

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