Noah Soltes knows how to turn pain into profit—literally.
Roughly three years ago, he was in the gym working out when he felt something awful. “I heard my left bicep muscle pop. So I raced home to wrap it,” Soltes says. “I was at the house and knew I needed to ice it, but all I had was a two-pound block of ice.”
He grabbed the ice block and was holding it against his arm when it slipped through his hands and dropped on his toes, breaking two of them. He also managed to then step on the shards of ice and cut his foot.
Soltes rushed to the hospital to address all the injuries that had just occurred. He says he sat in the waiting room seething about the experience and famished from all the activity. His girlfriend visited him in the ER and brought him food—pancakes to be exact. Suddenly, things fell into place and the idea of Paincakes was born.
“I’ve always been into product development, but ice packs were maybe number 67 on my list of ideas,” Soltes says. “When all that happened, the name just hit me, so I sketched it out right there in the hospital. It moved to number one on my list right away.”
All the details fell into place within a few hours, including how to make the ice pack stick to skin. When the nurses gave him ice for his broken toes, he capitalized on a tube of ultrasound gel that was nearby and found it was extremely effective.
“It was very thick, viscous fluid and the ice stayed, so I took a picture of it on my foot, and the first prototype was developed the following Monday,” Soltes says.
About nine months and 3,000 prototypes later, they were ready for market. Soltes says the biggest challenge was making an adhesive that sticks but is reusable. “I couldn’t live with myself if people were throwing them away after one use. So coming up with the proprietary gel was everything,” he says. He perfected the thickness of the adhesive (about 3.2 paper towels) that keeps the ice from being in direct contact with the skin and designed a cold shield for those extra-sensitive to cold therapy.
Once the design was ready, he took Paincakes to half marathons and other road races to try them on athletes. They were an instant hit. Since then he’s seen athletes and hobbyists of all kinds use them.
Now Paincakes are available at Fred Meyer, Bartell’s and hundreds of other grocery and retail stores. They also expanded their line to include hot packs, smaller ice packs (commonly used for migraines or under-eye swelling) and wraparound ice packs. And the list of ideas keeps growing. Soltes says relying on ice as a healing tool will never change, but luckily it did become easier to use.