975
10 min 22 sec

Three Friends Step Up And Pull In Restroom Revenue

When three co-workers notice their colleagues using paper towels to open restroom doors, they invent a simple solution that’s a step above the rest.
High Profit Manufacturing Problems & Solutions Product Wholesale

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What It's About

A simple solution that’s a step above the rest.

Business Model
Manufacturing
Skills Required
Product Development & Marketing
Complexity
Medium
Profit Potential
High

Words of Wisdom

When we spoke with Michael, he brought up the necessity of knowing when to continue and when it's time to throw in the towel. A lot of really great inventions never see the light of day because they lack the tenacity to see it through! So, while it's good to know when to quit, really give it your all for as long as you can.

Fun Fact

Handles on restroom doors can be a haven for bacteria like E-coli and viral infections like the flu. The humorous part is that most of us wash our hands right before we leave the bathroom, only to touch the filthy door handle undoing the hygenic step on the way out.

Notes from Chris

Episode 975
Mike Sewell was working for a cell phone company along with two friends, Ron Ely and Kelly Coddington. A part of Mike’s role at the company was to maintain the building they worked in. This meant he spent lots of time walking the halls and interacting with the staff. There were over 160 people working there so it was quite the job to keep the place going.

Mike noticed an interesting trait among the staff. Many of them used paper towels to open the door when leaving the restroom. It makes sense … after all, restrooms are dirty. Although most people wash their hands before exiting, not everybody does! In fact, research shows many restroom door handles are covered with bacteria.

The avoidance of dirty door handles was understandable but the solution the staff came up with, using a paper towel, wasn’t ideal. Mike knew there had to be a better way. So he, along with Ron and Kelly, made it a personal mission to find one. And so, during a long, hot summer, they got together to work on it.

They knew using hands wasn’t an option, so their attention quickly turned to ways in which the doors could be opened using your feet, which presumably would be covered by shoes. They went through a few versions that involved hooking the foot to the door or dragging it over something from the side. In the end, though, the solution lay in a counterintuitive idea.

Mike took a piece of C-channel steel and bolted it to the bottom of a door. By making the edge serrated, it allowed them to step down and pull the door open. It was a Eureka moment! They named their invention, the StepNpull® … that’s what it’s called; I’m not pulling your leg.

The three friends manufactured the product in their own garage. In that first year, they made several hundred units this way—not that they were counting their steps or anything. But it wasn’t sustainable—it was time consuming, costly, and hard to produce consistently.

However, it wasn’t until two years later, when things became overwhelming, that they took real steps to avoid the problem. At that time, the team was approached by a local manufacturer about taking on their production. They agreed, and that relationship enabled them to think big picture.

As things improved the product itself quickly became their best marketing channel. Word of mouth brought in more customers. It also resulted in them being stocked in stores like Lowe’s, Menard’s, McMaster Carr and online through Amazon.

As the number of outlets grew, so did the money StepNpull® was earning. As of today, what started as an idea to improve their own office has stepped up to become a real money maker. Each month, they generate $20,000 in sales with a profit of $7,000.

While not enough for them to quit their full-time jobs yet—they’re still working at the office where they conceived StepNpull®—it has allowed them to hire a part-time employee who takes care of their social media accounts as well as paid advertising on Google and Amazon.

Going full-time is definitely in their future plans. In fact, Mike, Ron, and Kelly see the StepNpull® as a path toward early retirement; they hope to have the business running without them or to sell it for the right price.

They’re proof that you can build a helpful, profitable side hustle as long as you keep a consistent effort every step of the way.

 
  MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE:

  • StepNpull®: Step on over to Michael's website to learn more about this problem solving solution!

SEE ALSO:

Inspiration is good; inspiration combined with action is better. Now get back to work!

Yours in the revolution,

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Quote of the Day
"I'm certain there are many great ideas and inventions, some better than StepNpull®, that never make it because the inventor stops short. I'm not saying never give up—it's good to know when to throw in the towel—but you also have to be tenacious.​"
—Michael Sewell #SideHustleSchool

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To infinity and beyond,

Chris Guillebeau