Coral Gables criminal defense attorney Patrick Hopple is getting lots of attention — for work outside of the courtroom.
Hopple, a former assistant state attorney and U.S. Army Reserve judge advocate, caught the eye of retail giants like Amazon.com Inc. and Ace Hardware Corp. for inventing Grocery Gripps, a strap designed to make it easier to carry grocery bags. One of his biggest retailers, Amazon, lists the product among its home and kitchen offerings with free shipping on its Launchpad program for startups.
Singer and NBC talk show host Harry Connick Jr. gave Grocery Gripps a positive review on his Nov. 13 “Worth the Hype” segment, as did The Grommet, an online marketplace for innovative products by inventors with compelling stories.
“It’s getting to the point now where I’ll be hiring people,” said Hopple, a criminal defense attorney who juggles two entrepreneurial ventures: running his new business and working as a solo practitioner at the Hopple Law Firm. He is also a board liaison for The Woody Foundation, a charity focused on accessibility and funding for spinal cord injury victims.
“It’s a crazy life right now, but a good one,” he said.
Hopple is married to fellow attorney Stephanie Castellano Hopple, who practices insurance litigation, medical malpractice and personal injury law at Trujillo Vargas Gonzalez Hevia in Coral Gables. Together, they’ve been building the startup from their living room with help from friends, relatives, contractors and part-time employees as needed to wrangle large orders.
Hopple moved to Miami in 2006 after graduating from Boston University School of Law. The state attorney’s office was his first employer out of law school, and he worked for about 10 years as a prosecutor.
“I remembeer going to recruiting interviews and looking at material, and there were pages and pages of palm trees on there,” he said. “We’d just had a nor’easter that dropped several inches of snow, and I had to shovel my way out before we went to the on-campus interviews.”
He relocated, but not before the icy north gave him the idea for an invention.
In 2006, as a student living in downtown Boston, he went to the store on a winter night, then walked 10 blocks home hauling bags of food. By the time he returned to the apartment, his fingers were numb, white and “completely asleep.”
“I started googling products that help you carry groceries, and all I saw was handles,” Hopple said. “I started thinking, ‘Man, there must be a better way to do this.’ ”
He put the idea out of his mind until one day working out in a military gym he noticed soldiers using lifting straps to redistribute weight from their fingers to their wrists.
“I kind of had a lighting bolt of innovation,” he said.
The Army veteran launched a funding campaign on Kickstarter, the crowdfunding platform, developed prototypes with the help of designers in Hialeah, consulted with a friend who works as a patent lawyer in Miami Beach and launched Grocery Gripps.
Within months, he sold about 15,000 with no formal marketing campaign while the patent was pending.
“I did a Kickstarter, and it kind of went crazy,” Hopple said. “It just kind of steamed rolled. It’s been awesome. I realized people thought it was a good solution.”
Patrick R. Hopple
Born: November 1980, Traverse City, Michigan
Spouse: Stephanie Castellano Hopple
Education: Boston University, J.D., 2006; Albion College, B.A., 2003
Experience: Managing partner, Hopple Law Firm, 2016-present; President, Grocery Gripps LLC, 2015-present; Reserve judge advocate, U.S. Army, 2008-present; Assistant State Attorney, Miami-Dade County, 2006-2016