Steve Shriver of Cedar Rapids owns the “Eco Lips” lip balm company but decided to partner with the Cedar Ridge Distillery to make sanitizer after the outbreak caused a shortage. “A lot of times it takes six months, a year, sometimes two years to launch a product from start to finish. And you talk to entrepreneurs who are ‘oh yeah, I’ve been working on this product for nine months or longer.’ And this was literally a week ago when none of us had any experience in this business,” Shriver says.
They produced 1,000 individual of bottles of hand sanitizer and gave it away. They then started producing in bulk to sell to hospitals and others. It was a lesson for Shriver and his partners. “It shows that if you put your mind to it — you can get it done in a shorter amount of time,” he says.
Shriver also takes some pride that Iowa businesses are doing this. “We have that work ethic you know, and we’ve got the farm ethic, we do,” Shriver says, “And that’s always been a strength of ours — and I think that is why I feel like if there is any way we can come out of this virus ahead of anywhere else — which I hate to think about it like that. Iowans we work together, we stick together and we are hard workers.”
Shriver says making the sanitizer also allowed him to at least make a little money when people are not thinking about buying lip balm. “Our sales are tanking right now. I own four businesses, I’ve got a restaurant, a retail outlet, and event venue. I am losing money everywhere I look. I’m trying to keep my employees paid. And we are literally meeting about layoffs and reduction of hours. It’s bad,” according to Shriver.
And in the bigger picture they are able to help people deal with a national pandemic — and possibly save some lives. “When you make a sale to a hospital because they are so low on it and they’re cleaning rooms with the product that we are making….saving one life would make all this worthwhile. Absolutely,” Shriver says.
The production is done at the winery, and Shriver and his company do the promotion for the sanitizer.