As businesses grapple with how to help customers feel safe in their stores post-COVID, Ashley Wayman sees her eco-friendly hand sanitizer dispensers as the perfect way to promote gathering in-person again.
When Wayman spoke to the Globe last August, her Boston startup, Shimmy, was focused on marketing its touch-free dispensers to consumers, with swappable faceplates in a range of colors and patterns to blend into home decor.
Since then, Shimmy has shifted its focus to businesses. Shimmy dispensers with phrases like “germs are unrestricted free agents” can be found throughout Gillette Stadium, where it’s the official hand sanitizer for the venue as well as the New England Patriots. The company is also a CVS Minute Clinic sanitizer partner and has received backing from local investors like David Fialkow of General Catalyst and Anne Finucane from Bank of America.
The Globe reconnected with Wayman to discuss the strategies the Amherst College and Harvard Business School alum has used to grow Shimmy’s business, the future of the company, and what her experience means for female entrepreneurs. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Why did Shimmy decide to shift its focus to businesses?
Our hope in the long term is to build our consumer business. But right now, we see the opportunity to market to that end consumer in a more effective way by having them see and use Shimmy in a commercial setting.
So if I go to a Patriots game and I smile when I see the fun dispenser and use it and say, “Wow, this sanitizer actually feels and smells really good,” that’s more effective marketing and brand awareness for us than an Instagram or Facebook ad.
And it has been a win-win situation. We want people to get back out there into these stores and local shops, and back into feeling safe to go to stadiums.
How did you land Shimmy’s partnerships with CVS, Gillette Stadium, and the Patriots?
Like anything else, it’s hard work. I always tell the team if it’s not hard, we’re not breaking ground. A lot of it was just persistence, talking to people and selling Shimmy’s story. We walked into a couple of Starbucks stores and talked to the store managers, same with CVS. So we got a foot in the door with persistence.
With Gillette [Stadium], the Kraft Organization understood that sanitizer was part of customers feeling safe and comfortable coming into the stadium. We’re also going to be doing a robust pilot with Citizens Bank. You think about touching ATMs and making someone feel comfortable about something like signing their first mortgage, and these subtle psychological shifts really make a difference.
What role have local investors played in your business?
Joe O’Donnell has had a long career in concessions, so he definitely understood this larger total market opportunity. He was really the first big believer. David Fialkow has also been a strong supporter of mine.
And then more recently, Anne Finucane, who is such a local female pioneer success story, gave support. Anne has taught me about not holding myself back as a female and seeing it as a strength. And not only has she been incredibly successful in the business world, but she’s raised incredible kids. And to me as a working mother, that’s the ultimate success.
What are your hopes for the future of Shimmy?
I want Shimmy to be in every home in the country, I really want it to be everywhere. Our hope is to find a strategic partner to help us scale to that level more quickly. We’ve already gone through all of the hardships of custom product development and design, really listening to businesses and consumers. And we’ve built a special brand that knows what the market is waiting for. So now it’s a matter of scale and distribution and finding the right partner to get to that level.
What does Shimmy mean for women in the business world?
I feel like there’s this moment right now for women in business and female entrepreneurship. And women, we tend to have self-doubt. I think that the most powerful thing about my story is that just like everyone else, I had those same doubts.
If you set your mind to something and you see an opportunity, there is a way. With the right resources, the right conversations, and the right energy, those are what make this such an incredible story.
And I hope that it’s inspiring for other women that maybe aren’t able to work in a corporate setting because of their childcare situation. That was me. I couldn’t make it work and still feel like I could be a good mom. So I found another way, and I’ve never been happier.
Annie Probert can be reached at email@example.com.