When Griffin Jordan was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes a few years ago, his parents Patrick and Stephanie wanted nothing more than to make sure their 9-year-old son could keep up his active lifestyle.
That eventually prompted them to leave rocket science jobs — for real, as Patrick worked as an IT systems engineer for NASA! — to launch a small family business in Huntsville, Alabama, that develops diabetes device stickers called GrifGrips. They’re designed to help hold a Dexcom CGM sensor or OmniPod securely on the body, while spicing up the look.
Just launched in late 2015, GrifGrips is already gaining traction in the Diabetes Online Community (DOC). And this new family business, named after their T1D son, is a perfect fit for our Small But Mighty series, featuring innovative small enterprises launched by and for PWDs (people with diabetes).
Read on for the story behind GrifGrips, and be sure to read through to the end for a special giveaway…
DM) Patrick and Stephanie, can you please start by sharing your family’s diabetes story?
Jordans) Our son, Griffin was diagnosed in September 2013. He was 9 years old. We had no experience with type 1 diabetes, so we quickly had to learn everything we could. Like all families, we were overwhelmed with the new daily requirements to keep our son alive. It was intense.
After six months of 5-7 daily injections, we were given the option of an insulin pump. We selected the Omnipod, the only tubeless pump. It was life-changing for him and for us. He also wears a Dexcom continuous glucose monitor.
We love the visionaries, doctors and scientists who can bring this type of technology to help people with diabetes and other chronic illnesses.
We heard you also just got a new diabetes alert dog?
Yes, Luna is new to the family, so she is still in training, but so far things are going well. She came home with us in March, so she’s still a puppy. She is a black lab and came to the Jordan family via the Nashville, TN, Adopt a Golden program (funny, because she’s a black lab!), and the training program we use is called Diabetic Alert Dogs: The Borderland Way.
We’ve heard such great stories of alert dogs and we were fortunate to get Luna!
Why start GrifGrips?
After Griffin was diagnosed we went through a myriad of education on what it is to be diabetic and live a life with a chronic illness. Throwing all of that into the lap of a 9-year-old was overwhelming. All we could think about is how he’s still supposed to be a kid. At that point we sat down as a family and talked. We all made a promise to each other right there that we are always going to keep moving forward no matter what, and we were going to find new adventures to go on and just learn to manage diabetes in all situations. This flows into who we are and what we are always striving to be.
Shortly after this, Griffin started the Omnipod, and then summer came. With Alabama heat and lots of time in the pool, the Omnipod kept coming off. This meant extra pain for our son, as well as replacement cost for his pod and the insulin it contained. Pods can be expensive. In order to keep the pods attached to Griffin, we tried all kinds of medical tape. But many of the medical adhesives were really harsh on his skin and, frankly, looked so medically abhorrent, it made it hard on Griffin to feel comfortable in public. So we felt we needed to find a solution to keep his cool technology in place, while still letting him be a kid. That solution was GrifGrips.
And what are GrifGrips exactly?
They’re adhesive patches made of a cotton material with an acrylic adhesive, which means they flex with the natural movement of the body and the special fabric allows the skin to breathe and stay cool. GrifGrips are larger than the sensor or Pod, so they’re meant to surround it and keep it in place, while making it look cool. We offer 14 different colors including two kinds of camouflage and a “berry burst” design. Each Grip has a “window” so you can see the device, which allows for accurate placement.
Who would you say GrifGrips are designed for?
Our products are as diverse as our customers. We have body builders, ballerinas, active adults, librarians — you name it — who use GrifGrips. As such we continually develop new styles to keep up. We currently offer grips for almost all devices and infusion sets, in hundreds of different shapes and colors. We offer a full line of sports and athletic themed packages, as well as basic shapes (ovals and squares). All our grips have special adhesive and the holding power stands up to heavy exercise and sports activity.
These sound great for people who like to swim and be in the water…
Yes! Our son, Griffin loves playing in the water. We lost too many sensors in pools during the summer. So we developed our grips to be water-resistant and breathable. We get lots of feedback from our customers that attest to the waterproof qualities of the grips.
What’s special about the waterproofing versus other medical adhesives?
Our grips allow users to enjoy pool, lake and beach time without the fear of their devices falling off. Many of the medical adhesives today trap water and moisture around the CGM sensor or pump infusion site, which can cause rashes and skin irritation, GrifGrips are made of a fabric-based adhesive that allows water to move through it, but doesn’t trap moisture and promotes faster evaporation and drying.
We have even helped out a few water polo players keep their devices on so they can concentrate on the game. Plus, mom and dad are happy in the stands, keeping an eye on their child’s numbers – and thus cheering and not worrying about their loved ones’ devices not working.
What do GrifGrips cost?
We typically sell a package of five grips for $6. Grips last 5-9 days. Considering the cost of replacing a CGM sensor or an insulin pump infusion set, it’s quite a cost-effective insurance policy.
Did you have any prior experience in launching a small business like this?
Honestly, no. We have both worked at NASA and the U.S. Army and similar organizations known for early research and development as well as innovation. You could say we had a front row seat in viewing the most amazing new technologies and scientific thoughts that are going to change the world.
Being exposed to those incredible scientists and engineers was very much the inspiration for founding GrifGrips. While rocket science is rocket science, this was a simple approach of, ‘How can we do some small thing to make life better for the more than 422 million diabetics in the world?’
Is this strictly a family business, or are others involved?
As owners, we as a couple work very closely from design inception to delivery. But we have other employees, many of whom are very much involved in some way with various diabetes foundations. We have a grandmother of child with diabetes, and our production manager has a daughter with type 1 that uses the Tandem t:slim pump and Dexcom CGM. the GrifGrips Team is a very close-knit group and a great deal like a diabetes support community.
How’s the response been so far from the Diabetes Community?
The best responses come in the form of stories and pictures: people wearing GrifGrips and huge smiles. Every so often we even get a picture of customer showing off their GrifGrip in a really adventurous place like rock climbing. Or better yet, we just received one a few weeks ago showing a young girl competing in a beauty pageant sporting one of the Flower GrifGrips. These are what we call our GrifGrips adventurers of the month!
Even more moving to us is hearing stories of really young children, newly diagnosed 1 and 2-year-olds, whose parents tell us about having to apply a new pump or CGM site, and thank us for helping the give these young ones an option to pick out a cool GrifGrip. While it doesn’t take the sting or tears away, it helps add a little spark and offer a little peace of mind. That’s priceless to us.
Are you also involved in advocacy or charitable support?
During the summertime, we love supporting camps and organizations that cater to type 1 diabetes. This year alone, we have sent GrifGrips to more than 100 camps and we couldn’t be happier. Closer to home, we support two key Alabama organizations: Camp Seale Harris and the JDRF Alabama Chapters. This community has helped us so much with support and sharing info, and we’re thrilled that we have a chance to help in return.
What are your hopes and plans for the future?
Like everyone, we want a cure. We will continue to support as many organizations as we can until that time.
Our main goal has always been: We hope to be out of business one day because the ones we love no longer have to live with diabetes. Until that happens, we will continue to donate to groups working for a cure and supporting those living with the disease.
In reality, having a child with type 1 diabetes opened our eyes to the world of chronic illnesses. We will continue to provide GrifGrips to children and adults dealing with diabetes or any other chronic illness, so they can pursue anything and everything without worry, and allowing them to focus on living a fun and adventurous life.
How inventive the Jordans are — definitely Small But Mighty in our D-Community!