By Casey Verderosa

Kristen McClellan ILR ’12 started working on her touchless sunscreen application device as a Cornell freshman, building shed-like prototypes and picking the brains of engineering students about the technology she wanted to develop in exchange for pizza. Now she’s been recognized by Forbes Magazine as a member of the 30 Under 30 Class of 2019for the work of her company, SnappyScreen.

Sunbathers step into a sleek booth after selecting an SPF of 15, 30, or 40, and are rotated on a base as the device sprays them from head to toe in a sunscreen formulation custom developed by SnappyScreen. The application booths are provided free of charge to hotels, who purchase a supply of SnappyScreen’s accompanying sunscreen. The company anticipates earning $3 million in sales this year.

Hoteliers have seen their profit margins increase, in one case by 31 percent in food and beverage sales, at SnappyScreen locations. The reason? People who get sunburned at the pool go inside and drink water. People who don’t get sunburned stay outdoors longer, order food and drinks, and get massages – something that red, painful skin would usually prevent from happening.

Although most people can only experience SnappyScreen during a hotel stay, McClellan hopes their success in thwarting sunburn by regularly applying head-to-toe sunscreen will serve as a call to action to thoroughly apply the stuff when they go home. She sees the company as effecting healthy behavior change by encouraging a new mindset: “now that sunscreen’s not hard, I should do this more frequently and it should become a habitual activity.”

McClellan, who leads SnappyScreen with her sister, Katelyn McClellan ILR ’08, was one of the first five founders accepted into Cornell’s eLab accelerator program for student startups. She figured out her design piece by piece, through six iterations, her scrappy attitude at times leading to MacGyver-like creations. “At the time we weren’t financed, so I would use off-the-shelf things that I could think of that would spray. So it was a garage door opener connected to a paint sprayer with four nozzles,” she says.

Kristen McClellan

She joined eLab in her freshman year and underwent research and development of her product throughout her college career, pitching SnappyScreen for the first time at an eLab elevator pitch competition on campus. Her second prototype allowed her to participate in her first business competition, which got the attention of a local entrepreneur, Sean Whittaker of Incodema, a sheet metal prototyping company. Whittaker gave McClellan access to Incodema’s engineers to help her determine her next design. 

“Ithaca as a whole was very integral in the progress of SnappyScreen,” McClellan says. And a piece of SnappyScreen remains here – the company’s very first prototype now functions as a farm stand at the Ithaca Children’s Garden, where local youth in the Teen Urban Farmers program learn the business of running a market garden, carrying the entrepreneurial baton.