When the pandemic started last spring, Troy Bonde had the idea to create a “thermo-sanitizer,” a device that allows users to take their temperature while sanitizing their hands, to improve workplace safety amid the coronavirus pandemic. As his idea grew, he knew that Winston Alfieri, his good friend since kindergarten, was the ideal person to team up with.
The pair created NextPace Ventures, a sanitation solutions company that offers thermo-sanitizers to make workplaces and institutions safer for individuals. Since the company was founded in July 2020, NextPace Ventures has sold over 2,000 units across Southern California to school districts, businesses and nonprofits.
Bonde, a junior majoring in business administration, first became interested in business during high school. His cousin, a USC graduate medical student, recommended that Bonde sell medical gloves and masks because of its consistent high demand, even before the pandemic. Although Bonde was not able to sell any of the medical supplies, he gained contacts in Asia in the medical manufacturing base because of his high school business idea.
Following the University’s closure last March due to the coronavirus pandemic, Bonde began brainstorming ideas for the eventual reopening of campus.
“[During spring break] is when we first started brainstorming how we’d even be able to go back to class and, would we have to have everybody have their temperature taken before going into the classroom,” Bonde said. “We figured, what if everyone’s sanitizing their hands and everyone’s having their temperature taken, why not have something that cuts that process in half, and is the two in one device?”
After reaching out to his contacts in manufacturing and creating the device, Bonde made his first sale with the Glendale school district by looking for the school directory online and sending emails to as many faculty members as possible until he got a response. He then reached out to Alfieri, a junior majoring in real estate development, to form a partnership.
“If we have good ideas, we’ll just come up with them together,” Alfieri said. “We have a good friend relationship [where] we can talk about anything and go through any obstacles. Sometimes people just don’t get along, [but] Troy and I get along really well so … our business ideas are almost … intangible, so they go hand in hand.”
Bonde and Alfieri knew that the odds of getting responses from potential clients were low, but discovered the key to making sales was being persistent and reaching out to many different clients. The pair said that most of the clients they have today were initiated from a cold email.
“We joke that our company essentially has $0 spent in ads,” Bonde said. “There were a lot of long nights, just sending emails, drafting emails and then sending them out in the morning. There was a point where we were probably averaging a couple hundred emails a day.”
To organize the large amounts of emails they were writing each day, Bonde and Alfieri created a spreadsheet listing every single email they were sending out and documenting responses. The spreadsheet was categorized by industry, mainly targeting schools, urgent cares, hospitals and hotels, including Best Western International.
“We do supply sanitizer and our thermo-sanitizer in Best Westerns from the USA to Canada. That was one of our biggest things,” Alfieri said. “The more emails we put in, the more work we put in, the more traction we saw on our end.”
Many NextPace Ventures clients have enjoyed the non-invasiveness of the device and the efficiency of combining temperature checks and sanitizing with the thermo-sanitizer, especially in the hospitality industry.
“When you’re using the handheld thermometer, … it’s almost like a symbol of a gun at someone’s forehead,” Bonde said. “What Best Western loved about it was that it didn’t show that symbol. It wasn’t invasive in your space, and it worked more for the hospitality business … They felt more comfortable using our products.”
Chris Zbreneck, who works at Monstore Garages, a storage facility in Palm Springs and is a NextPace Ventures client, said he is pleased with the device and likes that it gives a feeling of security for those working in the facility and the customers coming in.
“We keep it by the front door and customers that come in want to know what it is, if they haven’t seen it before,” Zbreneck said. “It also gives a peace of mind to us sitting here in the office that someone’s coming in and [taking] their temperature, and then they can also use hand sanitizer below it.”
As NextPace Ventures grows, Bonde and Alfieri, who continue to run the business completely on their own, have shifted their focus from finding new clients through mass emails towards customer service.
“It was just interesting to see if we spent 24 hours a day sending emails, we’d have had 10 times the sales we have now,” Alfieri said. “Honestly, the harder we work, the more sales we get, so it’s honestly on our part.”
Bonde and Alfieri hope that one day they will see USC as a client and see their product around campus.
“We’re hoping that USC might consider [it], which would be awesome. It’d be great to be walking on campus and see our products being put to work,” Bonde said.