Business, Editor's Choice, Featured

Episode 28 – Rob Poleki with Washie

Posted: July 4, 2019 at 6:00 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Inspiration From a Public Bathroom

While traveling with his family Rob's son needed to use the restroom. His son ran into a stall and just about sat on a disgusting toilet seat. Although there were toilet seat covers available, Rob knew his son and knew he wouldn't sit on a toilet seat cover, “It freaks him out, it's like an alien” Rob explained. Thinking quickly Rob grabbed a towel and applied some soap and wiped down the toilet seat. With that, the idea of Washie was born. “Everything in a public restroom is hands-free, except for the most important thing, the toilet seat.”

With 25 toilet seats in his garage in various stages of modifications, his friends and family had thought he'd lost it. The design has taken on several different looks over a 4 year period. When the mechanics of the function were determined Rob hired a patent attorney to file for a utility patent. A patent was issued in 2018 after being denied 3 times. He believes if he knew 4 years ago what he knows now he would have saved 3 years and offers help to anyone going through this journey themselves. 2 other patents are currently pending.

At the Venetian hotel in Las Vegas he had to push a toilet through the entire casino to make a pitch to be on Shark Tank. While he was doing it, he was mortified but it ended up being the most popular pitch presented and other entrepreneurs were very interested in his product. He made it very far in the journey of being on the show but they cut him just before filming. At that same time he was deciding whether or not to run again for public office. The producers of Shark Tank informed him that he couldn't be on a network and serve in public office so he gave up his day job in public service. “When they cut me, it was an all-time low. I had a really good job, I was safe. I was running unopposed and Shark Tank cuts me,” he said.

Publicity got out about this and local media ran stories on his story. “I didn't want to be known as the person who sold toilet seats, but you know what, now I don't care anymore, I'm doing it,” he said. Shark Tank is still in contact and there's a chance that Rob will be on the show after all.

Support from family has been key. Rob's wife has taken an entrepreneurial role and is helping to cover expenses until Washie takes off. As a couple, they work well together and Rob says they take the opportunities as they come. Together they own 5 businesses and have always had side-hustles. They both have Social Work degrees from ISU but they are both pursuing their entrepreneurial journies at this time in their lives.

Rob explains that he grew up poor but his parents worked hard. He said he got his leadership from his dad and his creativity from his mom. Rob remembers selling things door to door and while he hated it then, it taught him so much that has shaped him for now.

Although Rob hasn't shipped his first production run yet, it will happen the end of September. The focus has been on marketing. Rob is in discussions with 8 major airports, 2 ready to sign, 2 piloting the product and, 1 waiting for data before making a purchase. He's also in talks with stadiums and other public gathering spaces.

“The ups are so good, the downs are learning lessons I take them as learning lessons. I used to get in a depression mode, I always know my goal was for my kids to have a better life than I did,” he says. He has invested thousands of his own money and also has investors so he's feeling the pressure of delivering on this invention.

Future projections will are 7 million in 2020. Janitorial and sanitation is a 92 billion dollar per year business. Humans use the bathroom 6 times a day. In 5 years Rob plans to have Washie in every public restroom. The goal is to position to sell and then move on to his next big idea.

Information

If you want more information on Washie, you can visit the website at https://www.washiewashie.com/ you can also find Washie on Facebook and Instagram. Follow Rob on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/poleki/

Thank you to Disruptive Productions for editing the show. You can find more information about James and Disruptive Productions at https://disruptiveproductions.com/