Mike Cohen has been designing luxury gifts and unique watches for over 25 years. While his clientele includes everyone from the stars of rock and roll to famous sports personalities, much of Mike’s work has centered around the world of football and live music events.
Speaking to Simple Flying, he told us,
“As far as watches go, there’s not a Premier League team in the UK for the last 20 years that I’ve not designed and manufactured a winners watch for.”
A quick scout around the watch museum at Bellagiofootball.com shows the breadth of global sporting brands Mike has provided stunning timepieces to over the years, from UEFA to top clubs like Liverpool and Manchester City. His flair for beautiful products has led him to where he is today – a world-renowned design talent.
Yet now, Mike has turned his abilities to something quite different. His newly formed HANDiGROUP.com is bringing the world a suite of products to effectively and affordably help in the fight against COVID. Why did a successful watch designer strike out into something so far from his comfort zone?
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Seeing what was coming
Mike’s job would regularly take him all over the world, and he had strong ties to manufacturers in China. Long before the West heard about COVID, he could already see there was a big problem on the horizon.
Back in December, some of his factories began closing their doors. Mike began warning his friends and colleagues of a virus in China that would sweep across the globe. At the time, nobody would listen. We all know better now.
“I’m not the sort of person to ever want to say, “I told you so.” I had always hoped I would be wrong on this,” he said.
His friends in China were insistent that the world was going to need one essential piece of kit – an alcohol sanitizing spray, capable of safely disinfecting everything from hands to smartphones. Investigating supplies at local outlets, Mike found that no 3-in-1 sanitizing product was available in the world, and so the race to develop HANDiBAC was on. It wasn’t an easy road, however.
“To be fair, a lot of people thought I’d lost the plot. And at one stage, I thought I’d lost the plot,” he quipped.
What Mike has developed is a truly game-changing product. Not only does it look beautiful, but it also does a great job of sanitizing a whole range of items, effectively and safely. To this day, it is still the only refillable spray sanitizer in the world. But Mike wasn’t stopping there.
Watching the East
By now, it was around mid-March, and the COVID crisis was beginning to bite. Cases were spiking in Italy and Spain, and the UK had experienced its first outbreaks. Westminster was beginning to talk about a lockdown, but Mike’s attention was still on the Far East. He said,
“I was watching what was going on in China and in South Korea. There, they were sanitizing the streets; they were sanitizing buildings. If they found a case in one building, they would send people in with full PPE and they would sanitize the whole area to eliminate the virus on surfaces.”
With much of Mike’s business centered around events in stadiums and large venues, he had a vested interest in finding out how these locations could be safely reopened. Fogging became his focus, and he started to investigate companies that could provide this service.
However, Mike soon found that the majority of the companies offering spray sanitization services couldn’t or wouldn’t tell him what was in their solution. One company even admitted to using cheap, watered down, shop-bought disinfectant! And they were charging a fortune for these services too.
Mike set out to design a range of products under the brand PORTiBAC. As with all Cohen products, there’s a uniquely special aesthetic to his systems, some even designed to look like glamorous guns – certified to kill (COVID)!
For larger areas, he designed a backpack system, which can sanitize stadiums or other large areas in minutes. As usual, nothing but the best was good enough for Mike. The backpack sample cut into his neck, so he redesigned it for comfort. His reworking was so impressive, the factory making the product implemented his changes across their whole product range.
But it’s not the fogging machines that are the crucial element here. Mike wanted to supply PORTiBAC with a fogging solution that really did what it was supposed to do. A Liverpool-based lab called Fluid Science was developing a solution that is lactic acid-based and fully certified to kill COVID. He explained,
“By working in partnership with Fluid Science, we’ve now got a certified solution. It kills HIV on surfaces, SARS on surfaces, and all COVID including COVID-19. When we sell our PORTiBAC systems, we sell it with the solution. Our customers can be confident they’re not just buying a piece of kit, but also a solution that works.”
Mike and his team not only sell PORTiBAC but also offer to attend on-site and undertake the fogging themselves, at a fraction of the cost of their competitors. Mike even offers to fog for potential clients for free, performing a before and after swab test using agar plates to prove the effectiveness of his product.
Developing more tools to restart travel safely
Early on in the pandemic, Mike realized there would be no one product that would solve the COVID crisis. He set about designing a whole suite of solutions, which can work in tandem to make travel safe again.
Already, he’s developed the HANDiCOVER, a top-quality 100% cotton facemask with replaceable filters, which costs his clients just 2p per day, as well as a hygienic drinking straw he calls HANDiSTRAW. He also provides high-quality gloves, PPE dispensing machines, and is perfecting a rapid COVID testing kit following high demand from his clients.
But one of the really outstanding products he has on offer has to be the HANDiCHANNEL. This walk-through whole-body sanitizing booth has the potential to make travel a much safer experience and to restore passenger confidence in spades. The booth uses blown UV combined with hand sanitization functionality to rid passengers’ clothes and bags of all germs in just five seconds.
“I think everyone would feel very safe getting on a flight, knowing that someone they are sitting next to has gone through that process,” he said.
The Cohen-led COVID fight is not over yet. Mike’s working on a number of other products to make travel safe again, including a next-level temperature screening kit that promises to give fewer false readings. In the long run, he hopes the HANDiGROUP will be a one-stop-shop for COVID combat tools that offer confidence that they do actually work.
A company that knows what it’s doing
It’s easy to look at Mike and think it’s just another someone jumping on the COVID bandwagon to make some cash. However, Mike’s intentions with his new COVID-19 safety products are somewhat more altruistic than that.
Mike has always been heavily involved in charity work, and his company, Bellagio, has donated numerous watches to enable charities to raise money. Each year, he estimates his company will raise between £30,000 and £60,000 for charity through these efforts. It’s a theme he intends to keep going with his HANDiGROUP range of products.
As an example, the HANDiBAC.com has a one-for-one mission whereby a free unit goes to key workers for every sale made. In fact, Mike says the company has already given far more HANDiBACs to nurses, police, and many other key workers than it has actually sold. They soon find HANDiBAC is their personal safety device.
“How can we say no when we receive hundreds of requests per week? We can’t donate to everyone, but we are doing our best,” he told us.
Overall, Mike wants the industry to look and listen. He cares less about sales than about getting the world to wake up and start using the right tools to fight the disease. He told me,
“The difference between what we do, and other companies do not, is that our products actually work. The message I want to get across is that, even if your readers don’t want to work with us, they should really look at what we’re doing for the safety of passengers and their staff. They should look at our range of products.
“If you want people back on your aircraft, and you want people to feel safe, then you need to be working with companies that know what they’re doing and have the proven certification.”
This post was sponsored by the HANDiGROUP