Orono-based family business enhances accessibility through the Lil Nipper.
ClipDifferent’s story started 40 years ago when founder Tom McMullen had a pivotal revelation while completing a seemingly mundane task. “I was clipping my fingernails and thought, ‘How does someone with hand impairments use this product?’” McMullen says.
That question led to the development of Lil Nipper, an automatic nail clipper designed to empower a multitude of users, from those with dexterity issues or upper limb differences to people with sensory impairments or cognitive challenges.
After the seed of a product was planted, McMullen’s original question grew in scope during a time of family hardship. His wife, Trudy, was ill, and they were regularly making trips down to Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. While she was receiving treatment, McMullen says he talked to everyone he could, estimating he spoke to over a thousand people during their various stays at the hospital.
“That’s what kept me going, the people I interviewed,” McMullen says. “Whoever thinks about clipping fingernails? There’s a ton of people out there who, in some ways, are compromised to clip their fingernails. If I didn’t do this, who would?”
The feedback he got from everyone he met (those with limb differences, people who were visually impaired and even parents of infant children) confirmed that something small, which many people take for granted, could provide relief for many more than just those with dexterity issues.
Since the launch, the company is primarily run by his daughter, Melanie, with McMullen preferring to be on the product quality and development side of things. ClipDifferent now offers three versions of the Lil Nipper: infant, child and adult.
“It’s been really fulfilling to see everything,” McMullen says, regarding the progress ClipDifferent has made. “We receive emails, texts and phone calls giving testimonials about the product. It’s just incredible.”
These days, the McMullens are looking to the future and working toward their first toenail clipper. Along with the new products currently in development, the company is also looking forward to some big news in the coming new year.
Check in with us in early 2024 for the next chapter of the ClipDifferent story.