Start-ups find niche in hygiene market

Special to The Miami Herald

KEHEI CORP.Aventura resident Adrienne Moore got the idea for her portable seat covers after flying next to a child who couldn't stop scratching.

``I was so disgusted when I got off the plane, I told my sister that I wasn't going to eat or go anywhere until I showered,'' she says. ``My sister said, `You design everything else. Why can't you design something for that?' ''

Moore, 50, left a career in the design-build construction industry to launch an eco-friendly seat cover business, Kehei Corp., named for the Hawaiian word for ``cover.'' The company sells Kehei Traveler Seat Covers for adults and a version for children called the ``Cootie Buster.'' The soft, cotton and poly-cotton seat covers ($11.95-$25.95) are infused with tea tree oil, an essential oil. The covers come in travel sets that include armrest and seat tray covers.

Moore says she's sold about 8,000 of the seat covers since she began marketing them about seven months ago, primarily at trade shows in Orlando and Las Vegas. They're also available on her website, www.keheitrtaveler.com

Big corporations and families are her primary customers. She recently personalized seat covers for Tupperware Brands Corp.``Most of my website hits are moms who want to see their kids protected,'' says Moore, who is single and has eight nieces and nephews.

In February,  Moore and her seat covers were featured on the Home Shopping Network. She didn't have to pay for the exposure, but enduring the network's legal requirements and product checks was a grueling process, she says.

She employs a staff of four, which includes an inventory clerk and two salesmen in South Florida, and a public relations representative in Chicago.

Moore says she spent two years coming up with the design, applying for a patent, creating the website and manufacturing the seat covers, which are made in China and shipped to her company's warehouse in Fort Lauderdale. Her website also sells tea tree oil spray ($7.95 for a two-ounce bottle). A self-confessed ``natural freak,'' Moore says she came up with the tea tree oil-infused fabric with the help of Boca Raton anesthesiologist Vladimir Livshutz.

Several studies, including a 2009 Australian study in the Journal of Microbiology, have found the essential oil has the ability to kill certain bacterial strains.

Moore says sales have been good enough that she recently ordered 10,000 more seat covers.

``We've done better than expected, which is good in times like these,'' she says.



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