Ernie Garcia, firstname.lastname@example.org 10:43 p.m. EDT April 23, 2014
Two Rye Brook brothers had to flush their printed toilet paper advertising concept and pivot to another business model when they confronted manufacturing’s harsh realities.
Bryan and Jordan Silverman got a great initial boost for Star Toilet Paper last year when Entrepreneur magazine named Bryan Silverman, now a junior at Duke University, College Entrepreneur of 2012. The recognition earned the Silvermans a $5,000 prize and national media attention, which helped attract two angel investors who gave the brothers $140,000.
Star Toilet Paper’s plan was to print advertisements on toilet paper rolls that would then be distributed for free to public venues. The brothers successfully recruited advertisers and soon they needed increasing amounts of printed toilet paper, which their original printer could not supply.
Larger toilet paper manufacturers required massive orders they couldn’t place, so they decided to order a machine that could cut one-ton rolls of printed toilet paper into sizes suitable for their participating venues. Unfortunately, the machine they ordered from China never came and they never recovered their $10,000 deposit.
Now the brothers have reinvented themselves as Install Media, which places advertising on plastic toilet paper dispensers in bathrooms. So far they have their dispensers – which include free toilet paper for the participating venues – in about 10 gas stations in Westchester and Fairfield counties.
They’re close to scoring a deal with a big advertiser that will allow them to install the dispensers in public bathrooms throughout the region before the angel investors’ money runs out.
Here are five start-up lessons Jordan Silverman, 23, learned from his adventures with toilet paper.
1. Prove the concept:
“Before we knew that printed toilet paper works, we were trying to sell it to big companies.”
2. Focus on your core strengths:
“We were trying to do sales, marketing and a build a manufacturing process.”
3. Ensure the ability to deliver product:
“We were hiring sales people before we had a product to push out on a mass scale.”
4. Tweak the concept:
“We saw (dispensers) as the future of the company, we just weren’t going to make the transition so soon… We’ve received better feedback on the new product than on the printed toilet paper, especially when you’re trying to target large companies like we are.”
5. Carefully research Chinese vendors or partners:
“If you buy a car and it’s a lemon, you’re not going to not buy another car. China has incredible business opportunities.”
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