Delaware / Investing / Startups

I tried the Lewes-based ‘Shark Tank’ therapy dough

Does Pinch Me really help relieve stress?

On March 5, Lewes entrepreneur and therapist Nancy Rothner appeared on ABC’sShark Tank” and walked away with a deal for $300,000 for 7% equity with investor Robert Herjavek. The product? Pinch Me Therapeutic Dough.

My first thought while watching was that therapy dough (and putty and slime) are already popular and widely used. I know because I’ve used them for years. They’re popular products on Etsy, with creators coming up with an incredible variety of creative ideas with endless themes, textures and scents. Some creators have cult followings that eagerly buy their new releases as they come out at about $10 a pop.

These are mostly cottage industries, but anti-stress “thinking putty” — basically Silly Putty with different marketing — has been a mass market product for some time, with magnetic putty especially popular back when ThinkGeek still had its own web store.

So Pinch Me isn’t a groundbreaking product, in that it is an established thing, including the aromatherapy part (in fact, “slime scents,” aromatherapy oils for adding to therapeutic slime, is its own sub-industry). Sometimes that’s a big turnoff for the Sharks, but they were intrigued, suggesting that there is a dearth of this kind of product in the retail market. A simple web search for therapy dough shows that nearly all listings are from Etsy, and nearly all doughs on retailers like Amazon are Pinch Me.

Pinch Me has a few advantages: It was created by a clinical and medical hypnotherapist, it conforms to ASTM-D4236 safety standards and, of course, it is now a “Shark Tank” product. If you’re the kind of consumer who isn’t comfortable buying things like handmade soaps and other things you consume topically from strangers on the internet, Pinch Me will feel safer and more trustworthy.

Rothner stated on the show and in the product’s FAQs that the formula is a secret, which was where I got intrigued.

After the show aired, I went to the website to find contact information so I could reach out to the company about a possible interview. While I was there, I purchased a small jar of Pinch Me Ocean for $14.99 plus shipping (it was not a free sample). At the time, there were maybe a half dozen scents, including Relief, Zen and Spa; several more have been added since, including Bumbleberry, Grapefruit and Spice. They also now carry therapy spritz and hand sanitizer spray featuring the line of scents.

Pinch Me Ocean. (Photo by Holly Quinn)

Three ounces isn’t much, but it’s enough. I pinched off about half of the dough to try it out. The texture is soft and light, even fluffy. It’s quiet — some putties pop as you knead air bubbles into it, which many people find satisfying, but Pinch Me is a dough you could knead while watching a live presentation. The smell, as expected, is not subtle, but a strong scent doesn’t linger on your hands for long.

There’s no correct way to play with the dough. Basically, you just break off a piece and let your hands take over. Depending on the situation, you can focus on the dough — to clear your mind after a stressful day, for example — or use to dough to help you focus, which keeps you from checking your phone during Zoom meetings.

The soft texture is nice, it stays the same even if you knead it for a while despite the heat from your hands, and it holds the scent well. I can’t say I’ve tried every therapy dough out there, but Pinch Me actually is different from other products in the niche. Whether it’s all around better is a matter of preference. Some prefer a dough that pops or changes consistency or has a coarse texture; I personally would buy Beach in a second if it had a sandy texture.

Pinch Me, with its light, consistent texture is good-quality dough, regardless. Does it work? Yes, therapy dough at its most basic is a type of “fidget toy” that has been known to help with focus and stress relief. And who can’t use some of that right now?


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