Jimmy Gould came up with a product designed to help keep soap from slipping
When Jimmy Gould came up with the idea for his business, he didn’t have an “Aha!” moment, he says. “It was probably more of an ‘Oh, damn’ one.”
Back in 2014, Mr. Gould, who had been an institutional bond salesman in Memphis, Tenn., for 30 years, was suffering through a bad hip, probably the result of too many dives onto gym floors playing basketball, he says. That made one daily chore particularly painful.
“It was no fun to retrieve a bar [of soap] from the shower floor,” says the 60-year-old Mr. Gould.
So, he decided to do something about it—create a device that would keep soap from slipping out of his hands.
He shaped modeling clay into a small oval, added some points that could enter a bar of soap and hold it in place, and baked the prototype in a cast-iron cooker (almost ruining the cooker), he says. Not only did this rigid grip prevent the soap slip-ups, it also prevented the goo that normally develops on a wet bar, he says.
At first, though, he wasn’t sure the idea would fly. “Soap has been around for 4,000 years, so I really did assume it was out there already,” he says. But he couldn’t find a similar product, he says, and that’s when “I said ‘aha!’ and was willing to spend the money to patent it.”
He adds, “As I think back, that was the arrogant part—there was no consumer testing, I hadn’t even given it to friends yet.” What’s more, when he took the idea to a company that helps develops inventions into products, he was turned down.
After getting some acquaintances to use their 3-D printers for prototypes, he bought his own printer. The early version of the tool was a hit with friends. “Most responded with, ‘Why didn’t I think of that’? and a couple with, ‘Brilliant, I hate gooey soap,’ ” he says.
SoapStandle was launched in July 2016. Mr. Gould made his first sales the following year, bringing in about $500 in revenue—a figure that soared quickly, hitting $112,000 last year. The product—which runs $4.99 for a single unit direct from SoapStandle—is available at more than 50 retailers across the country, as well as on Amazon. The company has plans for new colors and materials, as well as a travel case and additional distribution channels.
Mr. Gould, who has put about $250,000 of his own money into startup costs, expects to recover his expenses this year. He’s currently looking for a partner to help him so he can focus on creative work.
Still, flying solo has some appeal. “As a bond salesman I had one job—to know my customers and the market. Our firm had the rest covered,” he says. “Now I’m wearing all those hats. I learn a lot every day. That’s what makes it exciting.”