Sometimes it’s all about having the right knowledge in the right place at the right time. That’s what happened to Jacques Elfersy upon learning of the dwindling supply of hand sanitizers as COVID-19 rapidly spread. He hoped he could use the chemical components of his company’s standard products to create a hand sanitizer that would prevent contamination.
Elfersy’s Atlanta-based international business, SiShield Technologies, focuses on the research and development of antimicrobial products, which are long-lasting, odor-free, alcohol-free and invisible. These water-based products are used in home building, consumer packaging, textiles, hospitals, schools and environmental remediation.
With the alarming shortage of available sanitizing products, SiShield began receiving calls asking if they made anything on a personal-use scale that would be effective against COVID-19.
SiShield had never made hand sanitizers, nor was it on its “to do” list; however, in response to the emergency, Elfersy hoped he could invent something quickly that was different from what was already on the market.
“I realized that everybody must focus on hand-washing, but what if it would be a long time before you could get somewhere to wash your hands?” Elfersy directed SiShield to access and tweak its formulas to provide a solution. “I welcomed the challenge to see if I could produce something unique, based on our company’s expertise. We decided to immediately work on a new protective sanitizer.”
His wife, Amy, owner of Aimee Jewelry and Fine Art Gallery, cleverly named the invention “Mistify.”
“Some of the places we service are surprising,” Elfersy said, laughing. “We now work with businesses in Dubai and Egypt, and they know I’m a Jew. It doesn’t matter because I help them. They use our expertise to create products locally.”
But what’s so special about credit-card-sized Mistify?
Elfersy explained. “Two or three squirts of Mistify rubbed into your hands before they touch germs will last for eight full hours, even if you wash your hands during that time. With that length of effectiveness, you can prevent a full day of contamination and cross-contamination. It’s odorless, with no sticky residue.” With a smile, he added, “It’s non-abrasive and also a skin moisturizer that prevents dryness, and each container provides 50 uses!”
Elfersy’s journey into chemistry and related inventions seems to be as destined as his new product.
He grew up in Morocco in a traditional Jewish family as one of nine children. As a pre-teen in 1962, Elfersy, his parents, eight siblings and grandfather managed to immigrate to Israel, where they settled in Petach Tikva. He studied mathematics and economics at Hebrew University, but his studies were interrupted when he served in the Yom Kippur War. In 1974, he joined his brother in Canada, where he studied civil engineering at McGill University in Montreal, eventually becoming a Canadian citizen and always maintaining his strong Jewish connections and observance.
In 1974, at a Jewish-Israeli social event in Montreal, Elfersy met Amy Rothstein, a native New Yorker who had moved to Canada to teach French in two Jewish day schools. In less than a year they were engaged. They married in 1976 in New York and returned to Montreal where Amy taught and Jacques worked as a project manager at a major design and steel fabrication company.
That is until 1985, when the challenging climate and even more challenging politics led the couple to leave Canada. A week before Purim, with their 3-year-old son, they moved to Atlanta, which they had visited on occasion. They loved the social ambiance, beauty and temperate weather, soon becoming active members of the Sephardic Congregation Ner Hamizrach.
In Atlanta, Elfersy was first employed as a project manager by a subsidiary of Dow Corning, where he immersed himself in the chemical side of engineering. In 2002 he started his own company, SiShield Technologies, which incorporates the unique properties of silicone. Along the way, he developed seven patents and, without advertising, grew an international clientele, including Hong Kong, China and Korea.
Devastating events often lead to unforeseen discoveries, and timing can be crucial. The arc of Elfersy’s life proves it.
Mistify sanitizer can be purchased at SiShield.com or by calling 404-636-8900.