Entrepreneur Engineers Picture-Perfect Cube

PITTSBURGH – Mechanical engineer Matt Verlinich experimented with more than 100 ideas until his business venture became crystal clear -- ice cubes. Verlinich didn’t just push a button or add water to a tray; he began creating a three-piece system making artistic, clear ice cubes ideal for the hospitality and home-entertainment industry.

 “I’ve always been fascinated with ice,” explained Verlinich. “Vacationing at Lake Chautauqua in New York, I watched ice being cut out of the lake. It was carved, just like it was before mechanical refrigeration.”

His artistic experience limited only to carving an icicle, Verlinich turned his passion to cubes after watching an ad on television. “I became obsessed with making crystal-clear cubes,” he added. “It was one of my ideas that I believed had commercial potential because there were no available products… Individuals had to by a block of ice and carve it into shapes.”

Today’s product, dubbed Clear Ice Rocks, is a sleek, glossy-finished unit, smaller than a gallon of ice cream easily fitting into a freezer.  It’s a far cry from Verlinich’s first homemade model consisting of a large, rectangular plastic cereal container housed in a molded spray-foam insulation package. Verlinich then purchased small, silicon molds with perfect, dice-sized sections which he placed atop the cereal container.

According to Verlinich, the container and insulation are needed in the process to flush out the water’s impurities. “The water freezes from the top down pushing impurities below in an icy form that users throw away,” he explained. “In 24 hours, you have large, two-inch, crystal-clear cubes on the top.”

SBA Pittsburgh District Director Dr. Kelly Hunt is amazed at Verlinich’s ingenuity and foray into small business ownership. “He knew and saw that ice could be crystal clear and found the means to do so by experimenting with household products,” she explained. “The end results, which are beautiful ice cubes, actually took quite some time to create.”

Verlinich echoed he was thrilled when the unit worked and sought to improve his design. He turned to crowdfunding hoping to raise enough money to create mass-produced, professional products versus making the units himself. “I gave donors the ice maker and, in turn, they not only supplied me with capital but ideas as well,” he added. “They suggested adding a new ice tray, diamonds, in addition to the cubes and spheres.”

Riding on the coattails of online funding it was natural for Verlinich to sell on the internet. Realizing search engine optimization, today’s equivalent of product placement, was imperative, he selected the name Clear Ice Rocks because it instantly popped up on the web.

Verlinich, whose cube idea was ‘on ice’ for years, finally is realizing his dream of small business ownership, employing two part-time associates. “I always wanted to start my own business,” he added. “I didn’t know how or when it would happen, but I’m extremely happy that I took that leap.”

Clear Ice Rocks sells in 55 countries and recently earned Verlinich honors as the SBA’s (U.S. Small Business Administration) Western Pennsylvania Exporter of the Year. “It’s pretty…cool,” he said. “In all seriousness, sharing my products with people, not just outside our region, but outside our country is an incredible feeling. I love being among the people giving Pittsburgh a global presence, and it was a pleasant surprise to be recognized for that.”

Known as “The Ice Man,” Verlinich’s ideas for his cubes aren’t melting with his success. “I’m gearing up for a variety of social media sites and even can brand images into the ice for restaurants and home entertainers,” he said. “And all because I thought ice is beautiful.”

Hunt is pleased her agency, SBA, was there to assist Verlinich. “He sat down and worked with the University of Pittsburgh Small Business Development Center counselors ironing out a business plan, exporting opportunities and patent protection,” she said. “It’s crystal-clear they provided excellent assistance.”

###

Company Name: 
Clear Ice Rocks
Location: 
Pittsburgh