What: Ripclear

What it does: makes protective plastic film for ski and snowboard goggles

Pictured: Ryan Doherty

Where: Bend and New York City

Website: www.ripclear.com

Ryan Doherty and his business partner Zach Hines knew they had a product idea that, if they could bring it to market, would be an instant hit among skiers and snowboarders.

They wanted to make a protective film to place over goggle lenses and prevent scratching. There was just one problem: All the U.S. manufacturers told them it was impossible. “You couldn’t make something that was optically clear and would go on a curved surface,” Doherty recalled.

Doherty and Hines refused to believe that. They not only found a plastic film with the right combination of static cling and tackiness, but they had it tested and received a military-grade rating for “optimal clarity,” Doherty said. “So it’s legit.”

Their company, Ripclear, has sold about 10,000 units for snow sports, GoPro camera housings and smartphones this year. Doherty and Hines are trying to expand into other markets, starting with the U.S. military. They hope to eventually make Ripclear protective film for sunglasses, football and hockey visors, motorcycle helmets and goggles for downhill mountain bikers, motocross riders and snowmobilers.

Doherty, who lives in Bend, and Hines, who lives in New York City, still fulfill online orders out of their homes, but they have distribution agreements with Dick’s Sporting Goods and Interex Industries Ltd., which specializes in outdoor accessories including Yaktrax. Hines, an architect, is CEO and now works for the company full-time. Doherty, chief business officer, works full-time at St. Charles Bend.

Doherty conceived of the idea while working at Mt. Bachelor ski resort, which brought him to Bend several years ago for a job as inventory controller. He was snowboarding about 100 days a year and went through several sets of goggle lenses. “Even the scratch-proof ones get scratches all the time,” he said.

So Doherty phoned Hines, his buddy from high school with a design background who’d launched and sold a couple of other companies, to pitch the idea. Hines immediately saw the potential, Doherty said.

The two friends, who are from the Detroit, Michigan, area, tapped friends in law and marketing for expertise and managed to launch the company on about $80,000, Doherty said.

The single-biggest hurdle was finding the right plastic, Doherty said. Fortunately, Hines had worked in China and knew how to connect with manufacturers. They ordered sample after sample during the 2013-14 snow season.

“He was the designer,” Doherty said. “I was the tester.”

Doherty thought he had the fun job, but after more than 50 trials without success, he began to get frustrated. Finally in May 2014, after another 50 trials, Doherty placed a film over his goggles that gave him the best clarity of vision yet. He went out for a run, and it didn’t peel off.

The film stayed on for 10 more runs and stood up to travel. Doherty invited friends on the mountain, including the biggest naysayers he could find, to test the film as well. “When it was the right one, we knew,” he said.

Since then Doherty and Hines have tested Ripclear on all kinds of eyewear and lenses. “It can fit on the most bulbous of bulbous goggles there is out there,” Doherty said.

— Reporter: 541-617-7860, kmclaughlin@bendbulletin.com

Q: Where do you see the company in five years?

A: Ryan Doherty: Disrupting five, 10, 15 markets, licensing with the U.S. military and major manufacturers all over the place.

Q: What’s your biggest challenge now?

A: Our biggest problem is paying for inventory. We get the orders and then we have to fund them.

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