Finding Your Grip
By Katelyn Sigeti ’06, alumni relations manager
CEO and founder of CatTongue Grips, Missy Hunt Kelly ’90, discusses how her invention has changed lives.
“Get a grip” is not a phrase one usually hears in polite conversation. But for Missy Hunt Kelly ’90, it’s a lifestyle. As the CEO and founder of CatTongue Grips, Kelly helps people “get a grip” as her life’s work.
Ask people what a CatTongue Grip is, and you will likely receive a variety of fun responses. Its origin began in February 2015 at a Verizon store in Park City, Utah. Upon purchasing a new cell phone, Kelly’s husband, Matt, immediately noted the new device’s perilous slipperiness. Unsatisfied with the salesperson’s solution (an insurance plan) and inspired by his background in the skateboarding culture of Southern California, he purchased grip tape from a skateboard shop for the back of his phone. Observing her husband’s new invention, Kelly remarked how the scratchy surface of the tape not only felt like a cat’s tongue, but also that it would damage any surface it came into contact with. After a search online to find a comparable solution produced no results, the idea for CatTongue Grips was born.
Eight prototypes and more than two and a half years later, CatTongue Grips were on the market: an adhesive, non-slip cellphone accessory that sticks to the back of the user’s phone or case to yield a better grip.
Shortly after the product launched on Amazon Exclusives and in their online store in November 2017, Kelly partnered with U.S. Ski & Snowboard to create a customized CatTongue Grip for the athletes’ goodie bags at the Olympic Games. This resulted in other organizations clawing for branded grips, and the young company further expanded their suite of offerings. New products emerged, including larger-sized versions for tablets and laptops (the Phat Cat), as well as a roll tape for a multitude of other products and surfaces, from slippery tool handles to truck beds.
Today, the product has grown to support those with special needs. Through the company’s partnership with Spartan Race, Kelly met Chris Waddell, a celebrated Paralympian who illuminated a particular issue for those in wheelchairs: items constantly fall off their laps. She supplied Waddell with her products, which immediately transformed his daily life. The roll tape now benefits a variety of special needs. Children with autism use the product on the insides of their shoes to provide a calming effect while in class. People with cerebral palsy (and other grip-related issues) use the tape to provide a better grip on utensils. For those in wheelchairs, it has created nonslip foot pedals on the chairs to prevent the feet from slipping and getting injured.
What’s on the horizon for CatTongue Grips? By the end of this year’s first quarter, they aim to have a double-sided, nonadhesive grip pad on the market. The new product has already seen much success on the dashboards of trucks as well as in veterinarians’ offices, which have reported the grip pad has made the animals safer and more stable while on the exam table. “We are creating and finding uses for our material every day,” says Kelly.