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Francesca Holds Her Patent With Press Clippings in the Background

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Francesca Maniff: Our Lovable, Local 'Shark'

Article by Melinda Gipson

Photography by Melinda Gipson

Originally published in Leesburg Lifestyle

At first glance, Francesca Maniff doesn’t look like a shark. Yet, this perky brunette in River Creek has taken both Etsy and TikTok by storm with a series of plush, animal-themed Roomba covers that are selling like hotcakes. The idea to create and manufacture something as simple as a plush cover for a robotic room vacuum? It came from her and her husband’s addiction to the TV show Shark Tank.

“We always laugh and say, ‘what if we did this?’ Most of our ideas were bad or, when we Googled them, they’d been done before.” Then one day their dog Chewey (short for Chewbacca) was nosing around the Roomba and accidentally turned it on. “He was half on top of it as it was moving and it was so cute,” Francesca laughs. She remarked that people often personify appliances when they refer to them, but was surprised to learn that no one had turned a Roomba into a pet.

Simple stick-on ears or a tail wouldn’t have any practical purpose, she reasoned. When she realized how often the Roomba nicked her table legs or dinged her floor moulding, the a-ha! moment came. What if she could market a plush cover, that wouldn’t impede the sensors and switches, but still looked like a cute, fuzzy animal? Thus ​Robo Rascals® were born.

At first, Francesca was sewing the critter covers herself: Chester the Cow, Callie the Cat, Lucy the Ladybug and so on. Of course, they were cheaper by the pack – because, well, naturally you have to wash something that spends its days on a cleaning appliance. Someone suggested a shark and their most popular cover, Stormy the Shark, joined the crew. Her latest addition is Edgar the Eagle, for whom “20% of each adoption fee for Edward will be donated to Mission 22, an organization ‘dedicated to healing America’s veterans when they need it most – right now.’”

Assuming you have a similarly great idea, how would you market something that made your robot vacuum look like a grinning predator? Via TikTok, of course. Francesca’s natural sense of fun and frivolity lent itself naturally to the platform where her very first posting (https://www.tiktok.com/@roborascals) drew nearly a million likes! Now her Etsy store (https://www.etsy.com/shop/roborascals) boasts more than 6,000 sales, and – yes, she now has an overseas manufacturer.

Not only that – as of February, she’s got a patent that protects “any kind of plush protective covering on a self-moving robotic cleaning device.” So, when robots expand to washing windows or doing laundry, there’s no telling what rascals may roam your future home.

So, you know... maybe Francesca is a shark after all? Just kind of adorable... like her Rascals.

  • Chewey Takes His Job as Chief "Barketer" Seriously
  • Francesca Holds Her Patent With Press Clippings in the Background
  • Francesca Maniff and Stormy the Shark