Long-time Carson City resident Mario Garzanelli has made a living working in the carpet industry.
But the tools used in the trade were hard on his body. For instance, the knee kicker, an instrument that forces users to constantly get on their hands and knees, left him with a recurring ailment.
“I injured my knee once and found out it was related to using the knee kicker,” Garzanelli, now in his 70s, said in an interview with NNBW. “I’ve had a lot of medical procedures done on my knee over the years.”
That led Garzanelli on a mission to develop his own brand of carpet tools aimed a making life easier for those laying, repairing and cleaning carpets.
He went into business with Bruno Fissori, another veteran of the carpet business, and later Steven Nichols, a marketing expert, to form a venture called Superior Carpet Tools, based in Mound House, east of Carson City.
The main tool it markets is the triForce Adapter, a tool that Garzanelli and Fissori tout can stretch carpet 30 percent tighter and twice as fast as the knee kicker, all while not as physically demanding. The company also markets three other carpet tools to address difficult projects, such as tight spaces. The Stair Max, for example, is used specifically for stairways.
The tools they add can be used while standing up, and allow users to avoid uncomfortable positions.
“The results are just astounding,” Fissori claimed. “I go out and use the tools and see how quick and easy it is to use.”
Garzanelli drew his inspiration for his invention several years ago after making a trip to the Carson City Library. The concepts he gleaned from reading old high school physics books gave him the impetus to create his own carpet tool.
He developed and refined the tools and applied for a patent in 2007. But he said the patent process was expensive, tedious and exhausting. He even had thoughts of throwing in the towel, a sentiment echoed by his patent attorney. But he refused to give up and the patent finally was approved in 2014.
“At one time, I thought I was too old and I backed out with cold feet,” Garzanelli said. “But I thought to myself, ‘I had something that makes things better for these people and it would be a sin not to do something with it.’”
By then, Garzanelli brought on Fissori as a partner to bring his invention to market.
“We started selling it all summer long after Mario got ahold of me and our first sale came in September of 2013 on Mikey’s Board,” Fissori said. “We started marketing to carpet cleaners, carpet stretchers, handyman or even apartment maintenance workers.
Garzanelli and Fissori created a website for Superior Carpet Tools, but they admitted they were novices in web development. After interviewing web developers they hired Nichols, who immediately revamped the existing site.
“One thing we’ve noticed is you can have a web site but if no one can find you it doesn’t matter,” Nichols said.
The partners also have been investing in AdWerx marketing strategies, which has boosted their profile on Internet searches.
“If you type in kneeless kicker, or carpet stretching tools, we’re one of the first ones up there,” Nichols said.
They’ve garnered customers in the United States and other parts of the world including the United Kingdom and Australia. They also won a contract with the U.S. Marine Corps.
One challenge they’ve encountered is acceptance from those in the carpet industry. Because most of the tools and methods have been around for at least 150 years, there has been some resistance to try anything new on the market.
Another problem, Nichols and Fissori admitted, was that early versions of the tools were unattractive, and there was an assumption from some in the carpet industry they would be buying useless equipment.
“The products were functional, but that wasn’t enough. People wanted it to look good, too.” Fissori said. “We offer a one-year satisfaction warranty on all products, because the technology is so new, guys are scared to use it fearing that it is just a piece of junk.”
Superior Carpet Tools originally assembled the tools themselves, but as orders for their products have increased, they began outsourcing assembly to other companies. At first, they contracted with Rice Hydro of Carson City, but had to switch gears and go with Carson Welding, who is expected to fully take over production within the next month.
Fissori explained RICE Hydro is developing its own line of products that are selling like hotcakes, leaving little time dedicated to Superior Carpet Tools.
While the trio of partners want Superior Carpet Tools to succeed financially, they all agree the real reward is providing carpet tools that are easier to use and more efficient than the predecessors.
“That’s one of the things that (Mario) wanted to put in the marketing push is that it saves knees and in some cases saves lives,” Nichols said.
Superior Carpet Tools wants to expand its marketing push to equipment rental stores and even the construction insurance industry. They promote the Triforce tools as a better, safer alternative for the carpet industry.
Added Fissori: “I believe this will become the standard of the industry. I honestly believe we have the answer to the knee kicker. There’s no assembly, it’s faster and it doesn’t kill you in the process.”