HBS Grads Found Spruce & Co to Keep Your Smartphone Clean

Use 'Sprucies' to wipe down your screen…without looking like an embarrassment.

spruce and co

Photo by Tat Sarkar Provided

The average smartphone packs more than 11,000 germs per square inch. For self-proclaimed germaphobe Jill Applebaum and former Teach for America instructor Jillian Ressler, that statistic is stomach-churning.

“We wash our hands several times a day and our face, but we rarely wash our devices,” Applebaum says.

Applebaum tried, but dropped Purell in her smartphone speaker, and Ressler constantly struggled to keep the iPads in her kindergarten and first-grade classrooms clean. That’s why the 2015 Harvard Business School graduates launched Spruce & Co, a startup producing disposable screen cleaning wipes called “Sprucies.”

When Ressler was teaching, she started researching the sanitizer space and discovered that the products she was using to clean at the end of the day were “very chemical- or alcohol-based—not something you wanted to share or work with students with.” Sprucies are made with palm and coconut oil instead. They are also fragrance-free, safe for the skin, and playful in their packaging.

“One of our friends called us up and said she kept the wipes on her desk and wasn’t embarrassed,” Ressler says. “We want to create a brand that’s fresh, stylish, and creative, and products people want to carry with them and are happy to have lying on their desk.”

The “people” currently in question are millennial women—Spruce & Co’s target audience. Between the roughly 30 million female millennials nationwide, consumer spending has reached the trillions.

“Millennial women expect everyday convenience, but care about branding, messaging, and the people behind the brand,” Ressler says, noting how well she and Applebaum can relate.

The two launched the product while in school, receiving help from professors and Cambridge business owners along the way—as well as roughly $15,000 in grant money from Harvard Business School’s Rock Accelerator Program and office space from the Harvard Innovation Lab. The startup has since relocated to New York City, but has kept its New England roots, with all manufacturing being performed in Maine.

Within the next year, the duo wants to introduce two or three new products, which they remain mum on. They did say they want to create simple solutions for work, home, and travel, however, and see opportunities to bring the company to shared spaces like gyms, airports, schools, and offices.

“From Jillian’s experience as a teacher, we’re seeing so many more use cases where technology is being integrated into shared spaces,” Applebaum says. “We’re excited about being able to reach consumers when they want to keep their own things clean, but also when they’re using shared devices during their everyday life.”

The company is testing out selling Sprucies in New York health and organic markets, as well as fitness facilities and sporting goods stores. But for Bostonians, a clean smartphone screen is only a few clicks away. You can order a 10-pack online for $7.99, or spring for the full 80-pack for $52.99.

Your face—newly breakout-free—will thank you.