Being able to twist and bend a window screen into place without causing damage — that’s the secret behind FlexScreen, a product that is manufactured locally and was featured this week on the popular TV show “Shark Tank.”
Joe Altieri, inventor and president of FlexScreen, which is based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with four manufacturing locations across the United States, including one in Vermillion, appeared on the Jan. 5 episode of the hit ABC-TV show. South Dakota Plant Manager Ken Karolevitz says the appearance went very well and was amazing to watch.
“What you see when the show airs is only a fraction of what actually happens in The Tank,” said Altieri, who traveled to Los Angeles last June to film the segment. “My pitch was one of the longest in Shark Tank history. Filming for my segment took more than two-and-a-half hours, and I understand that only one pitch has ever gone longer. The show did a great job capturing the most important things that were said, though, and the back and forth between the three Sharks that were vying for a piece of FlexScreen.
“Ultimately, Lori Greiner, the proclaimed ‘Queen of QVC’ won out over Sharks Kevin O’Leary and Barbara Corcoran. We were very happy with that outcome because, from the very beginning of this whole experience, Lori was the Shark we were hoping would bite!” he said.
Vermillion’s FlexScreen plant employs 14 people, manufacturing the patented window screens, which are advertised as “the world’s first and only flexible window screen.”
“Window screen technology - and all of the problems that come with it - has remained basically the same for over 100 years, Altieri said. “Traditional window screens are extremely difficult to install and remove. FlexScreens snap into place in seconds, and removal is just as easy. Our sleek, flexible frame hides in the screen pocket, making our product beautifully invisible, eliminating the need for color matching and allowing for a better view to the outside.
“You could run over our screen with a car, and even toss it from a five-story building, without damaging it. We hold multiple patents on our flex technology, making us not only the world’s first but also the world’s only flexible window screen. FlexScreen is an industry disruptor,” he said.
Altieri created the patented screen in his garage workshop.
“After 20+ years in the window industry, I recognized the inherent problems with traditional window screens and dealt personally with constant customer frustrations: bent aluminum frames, scratched paint, and complicated hardware, to name a few,” he said. “I knew there had to be a better way, so I set up shop in my garage and got to work. After years of trial and error, I emerged with my prototype that contained no aluminum, no paint, and no hardware. FlexScreen eliminates virtually all of the issues that people hate about their traditional screens.”
FlexScreen’s South Dakota plant was started in Vermillion three years ago after Karolevitz and a friend heard about the screens and decided to check them out.
“After we visited the Flexscreen plant in Pittsburgh and met with Joe, we were convinced it was something we should do,” said Karolevitz. “We made our first screen in Vermillion in May of 2017. … We averaged around 500 screens made per day last year. We can do around 1,000 per shift and have commitments for 2020 that will take us over 1500 per day.”
Altieri has traveled to South Dakota on numerous occasions to visit the Vermillion operation. He anticipates that the operation will grow even larger in the future as his product gains more recognition.
“Since its introduction into the marketplace, FlexScreen has gained international attention, sold millions, and been featured on Shark Tank and HGTV. We’ve won multiple awards, including Window and Door Magazine’s Crystal Achievement Award – Most Innovative Window Product, and Door and Window Market Magazine’s Reader’s Choice Award – Favorite Window Product three years in a row,” he said. “A paradigm-shifting product, FlexScreen is revolutionizing the window industry.”