Technology  January 14, 2011

High-touch knitwear for high-tech gadgets

BOULDER – As an intern with the Wall Street Journal in Washington, D.C., Jean Spencer often missed phone calls in the winter because she couldn’t get her gloves off fast enough to tap her touch screen.

“My mom and I thought it was bizarre that there are all these touch-screen devices that can’t be used in the winter,” she said.

What came next was the decision to resolve the problem and start a business.

In searching for a way to combine warm hands with fingers that could still activate touch screens, Spencer and her mother, Jennifer Spencer, set out to create gloves that didn’t get in the way. After experimenting with numerous prototypes, the pair came up with the right combination of silver-coated nylon fibers knitted into a snug glove.

The mother-daughter team launched Agloves on Sept. 29 when the company’s website went live. They received funding in December 2009 from Hindsight Investment Co.

“Our initial startup costs covered inventory and overhead and were over $500,000,´ said Jean Spencer, the company’s director of communications. Jennifer serves as CEO. “The biggest cost is for the silver.”

The gloves get their name from the chemical symbol for silver – Ag – the key reason why Agloves keep the connection strong between gloved fingers and touch screens.

“Silver is the most-conductive material on the periodic table,” Jean said.

There are currently two categories of touch-screen displays in use: resistive screens and capacitive screens. Resistive touch screens rely on pressure to activate them. Capacitive screens rely on the electrical properties of the human body to detect when and where on a display a user is touching. Very light touches are all that’s required.

Most modern touch screens are capacitive, according to Jean Spencer.

To determine the type of touch screen you have on your phone or multimedia device, cover your fingers with heavy fabric (like thick gloves) and touch the screen. If the device doesn’t respond, you probably have a capacitive touch screen.

Agloves are only available online at www.agloves.com, where one pair sells every one and a half minutes, according to Jean Spencer.

The gloves come in one style and three sizes and sell in the United States for $17.99 with a flat shipping rate of $3 regardless of the quantity. The company has five employees.

“We know it’s risky to just do online sales, but we’re working right now to just establish our brand,” Jean Spencer said.

Social media marketing

To get the word out and keep those sales numbers increasing, Agloves relies on a heavy dose of social media, including Twitter, Facebook, Digg and YouTube. Additional marketing sources include mom blogs and technology blogs like Gizmodo and Lifehacker.

“When people Twitter, they expect responses,” Jean Spencer said. “And our plan is to be very responsive, answering their questions quickly.

“Once people get responses like that, they want to share,” she added. “That ‘Like’ button on Facebook goes a long way.”

And since Twitter only allows 140 characters, Jean’s able to send Tweets in Spanish and Italian as well as English without having to be a language expert.

To launch the social media campaign, the company gave away 2,000 pairs of gloves at small events and on college campuses with the hope of being ‘friended’ in return.

“When people buy the gloves, they get a share card that says ‘I (g)love you’ on one side and ‘Love these gloves? Share us with a friend’ on the other,” Jean Spencer said.

Through Brad Feld’s Amazing Deals, Agloves sold close to 500 pairs of gloves in one day and had to stop the sale so they didn’t run out of inventory. Agloves are manufactured in the Midwest and stored and shipped from The Intrepid Group in Fort Collins.

Jean Spencer describes the venture as a huge learning experience in many ways – especially working in a family business.

“We’re a 22-year-old and a 52-year-old mother-daughter team, and we’re both strong-willed women,” she said. “It’s been a lot to learn about handing things over to another person to do and recognizing that others may have strengths where you don’t.”

BOULDER – As an intern with the Wall Street Journal in Washington, D.C., Jean Spencer often missed phone calls in the winter because she couldn’t get her gloves off fast enough to tap her touch screen.

“My mom and I thought it was bizarre that there are all these touch-screen devices that can’t be used in the winter,” she said.

What came next was the decision to resolve the problem and start a business.

In searching for a way to combine warm hands with fingers that could still activate touch screens, Spencer and her mother, Jennifer Spencer, set out to…

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