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When he was a kid, Sam Nassif of Denver tried selling mud balls to other beach-goers at the shore.
In fourth grade, he made and sold a line of bracelets in local bookstores.
And now, as a recent high school graduate, he’s ready to tackle the Denver market with an invention that’s consumed his entrepreneurial efforts since the age of 10: the Drip Drop, an edible ring made out of waffle cone ingredients that slides onto cones and stops melting ice cream from dripping on hands and clothes.
If you’re skeptical that a product like the Drip Drop could be taken seriously, this business whiz has got cred: He and co-creator Oliver Greenwald appeared on ABC’s hit entrepreneurial TV show “Shark Tank” at age 15 in 2016, becoming the youngest entrepreneurs to ever pitch to the Sharks without an adult present.
Oh, and the Drip Drop was patented by the time Nassif and Greenwald finished eighth grade. No big deal.
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Nassif has overseen the company that the pair formed (called, naturally, The Drip Drop) since Greenwald stepped away from it 18 months ago. At that time, Nassif had invested $2,500 into the Drip Drop, but Greenwald wasn’t able to, so he decided to take an equity cut and allow Nassif to handle the business.
Since then, Nassif has gotten Drip Drops into all three Denver-area locations of Glacier Ice Cream & Gelato, but said the company doesn’t have the manpower to expand any further. He’s hoping to seal a licensing deal with a manufacturer like Joy Cone by the end of the summer.
“The whole point of this summer is to prove sales of the Drip Drop,” Nassif said.
Nassif and Greenwald came up with the Drip Drop when they were 10 years old and were preparing to enter the Gates Invention & Innovation Competition at Graland Country Day School.
They were struggling to come up with an idea when they walked by Bonnie Brae Ice Cream one day and saw a little girl covered “head to toe” in ice cream, Nassif said.
The Drip Drop was born.
The boys took second place in the competition, and their prize was the funding to pursue a patent. They worked with a lawyer during a three-year patenting process.
When it was granted, they applied to “Shark Tank.” Despite having never sold a single Drip Drop, Nassif and Greenwald flew to Los Angeles during their freshman year of high school to pitch to the Sharks.
Nassif said they landed an offer with “Shark Tank” businesswoman Barbara Corcoran for $500,000 for 33 percent equity, but the deal never closed. At the time, major ice cream cone-makers told them that the Drip Drop first needed established sales.
The setback didn’t deter them, though.
“Even though that was the toughest moment, out of that came a positive aspect of the company,” Greenwald said. “We sort of had to restart and think about what we wanted to do next, and that was really beneficial to us.”
From there, Nassif said they went through probably three different versions of the Drip Drop as they worked to perfect it.
Now, Nassif has been working in Graland Country Day School’s commercial kitchen, “cranking out” Drip Drops as he pursues a licensing deal. He’s sold more than 1,200 Drip Drops since June 16.
“We’ve had more stores reach out asking” for Drip Drops, Nassif said, citing nearly 500 inquiries from wholesalers, retailers and consumers all over the world since their segment aired on “Shark Tank” in April 2016.
Regular Drip Drops cost 99 cents, while chocolate-drizzled versions are $1.25. Nassif described them as a cross between a cookie and a sugar cone, with cinnamon and vanilla used for flavoring.
Nassif also pointed out that the Drip Drop is environmentally friendly: He and Greenwald calculated that on average, little kids use around four napkins to clean up melting ice cream.
Zach Kimbell, production manager at the Kent Place location of Glacier Ice Cream & Gelato, said their company took on the Drip Drops as a way to support a local business.
“We sell them pretty confidently,” he said, adding that they’ll continue carrying Drip Drops as long as they sell.
Nassif is headed to Chapman University in the fall, where he plans to study business and continue working on the Drip Drop. Greenwald is going to Duke, and is thinking about a focus on computer science.
Greenwald encouraged aspiring entrepreneurs to keep a journal of ideas, even if some seem childish or stupid.
“No idea is a bad idea if you just keep an open mind about what you could improve upon,” he said.
And although Nassif “had to give up a lot of birthday parties” as a kid to be an entrepreneur at such a young age, he doesn’t have regrets.
“It’s been tough for sure,” he said, “but it’s definitely been worth it.”
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