Austin American Statesman

Cooks across the country including celebrity chefs Rachael Ray, Martha Stewart and Emeril Lagasse are relying on gel-filled floor mats produced by a Central Texas company to keep comfortable in their kitchens.

Let's Gel Inc., with offices in Northwest Austin, makes the GelPro mat. The company recently topped the 1 million mark in mat sales and is expanding its offerings, which are available online and at several brick-and-mortar retailers, including Bed Bath and Beyond stores nationwide.

Robb McMahan, the company's founder, said he developed the GelPro mats after several foam mats his wife purchased did little to reduce pain she was experiencing.

"My wife is a fantastic cook," he said. "She cooks constantly, and after we put in a new tile floor, her feet and legs really started to bother her."

Ads in more than 30 magazines and on a number of cable TV networks have helped McMahan rapidly expand the business; revenue grew 24,000 percent between a very modest start in 2005 and 2008. Let's Gel declined to release specific revenue figures.

The company has grown to 27 employees in the Austin area and has a total of 70-plus spread across the state.

"Our objective is to grow, and do it as fast as possible," McMahan said. "Everywhere someone's standing — in the kitchen, at a cash register, ironing, putting on makeup, working in the garage — that's an opportunity for us."

In addition to its GelPro products, Let's Gel has recently rolled out the GelPro Plush line, with mats that are 50 percent thicker, and a collection of NewLife offerings made of plant-based Bio-Foam.

"Our product is a destination purchase," said John Rowe, the company's chief marketing officer. "People regularly come back and buy a second, third and even fourth mat."

Prices range from $50 to $1,100, and the mats come in a variety of sizes and colors, with hundreds of combinations available.

Bed Bath and Beyond offers about 40 choices online, most getting four- or five-star ratings from shoppers.

"We've done a lot of consumer research," Rowe said, "and the level of customer satisfaction is higher than I've ever seen before."

A good portion of Let's Gel customers suffer from arthritis or leg and back problems, McMahan said. Figures the company has compiled show there are as many as 46 million Americans with arthritis and 65 million dealing with chronic back pain.

"This is not a small niche market," he said. "There's a large segment of the population out there dealing with pain from standing on a hard floor."

See this review on Austin American Statesman.