Teen Inventor R.J. Batts Debuts Tip Tough Line
When middle-schooler R. J. Batts started brainstorming about how his dad, a restaurant chef, could protect his fingers at work, he wasn’t thinking of fame and fortune.
“I just wanted my dad to stop cutting his fingers so often,” said Batts, now age 14. “He sometimes needed stitches, which meant it hurt to work, and he often could not play with my sister, Grace and me.”
With the support of his parents, Lori and Bob, R.J. set out to invent a product that would shield his Dad’s fingers as he cut, chopped and diced food. While working on sketches and 3D prototypes, Batts hit upon a simple yet effective way to shield each finger thoroughly up to above the second knuckle — the areas most exposed when using kitchen knives.
“I knew if I could cover those areas, my Dad’s hands would have much more protection,” said Batts. “Once I saw it could work, I thought other chefs might want it.”
He continued to improve the product, first by adding prongs to hold food securely in place. Then, to make the product sanitary for professional kitchen environments, he decided to forge the professional version from sturdy stainless steel, adding a series of holes to provide access for thorough cleaning.
Soon after he had a working concept, Batts was accepted into the local chapter of the Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!), hosted by the Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce. He worked with YEA! for six months, developing business skills, establishing his company — Picklehead LLC — and receiving advice from local business leaders.
Accolades and funding followed. In 2016, Tip Tough won start-up funding from Salisbury University’s Shore Hatchery Competition and received grant support from TEDCO. Tip Tough was also named Fan Favorite in Start Up Maryland® Pitch Across Maryland competition.
Arturo Suazo, Executive Chef of Sobo’s Wine Beerstro in Salisbury, appreciates the value of Tip Tough every day. “Tip Tough is easy to use, amazingly safe and no problem to wash,” said Suazo. “And it saves money because it protects fingers, limiting lost time from injuries and workers comp.”
The professional grade Tip Tough was so well received that Batts and his family decided to develop a home version. The colorful product offers the same features made of molded plastic at a slightly lower price point. Batts noted that they’re still testing the home version, but that it includes a small size that they found works for kids.