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The Story of the Step ‘N Wash

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What’s your reason for not getting your business off the ground yet? Too many of life’s obstacles being placed in your way? Joi Sumpton was once where you might be right now. She had dreams of working for herself instead of somebody else but nothing seemed right and real life obstacles routinely got in the way. Sound a lot like your story?

Joi was a flight attendant for Delta Airlines and for those who know the schedule of a flight attendant, the hours are long and the work is tough. It’s one of those jobs where real life happens only a few days per week. For Joi, there are only a few days where she truly comes home from work. If anybody had a reason not to follow her dream, Joi may have had a multitude of reasons.

On one of those days where she wasn’t working, she was at a bookstore with her two young kids and she took them to the bathroom. They were too short to see over the countertop so Joi strained and tried to hold both of them high enough where they could wash their own hands.

Although she had thought of other ideas in the past that would allow her to be her own boss, that day she thought of the one that would change her life. What if there was a retractable step stool that would allow young children to wash their hands on their own?

The next day she had to work but her husband, not working at the time, spent hours on the internet looking for a similar idea. He searched on popular search engines as well as the United States Patent Office website. He wasn’t able to find anything. Excited, Joi was telling other flight attendants about her idea. Out of coincidence another flight attendant told her that her husband was a patent attorney. Joi spoke to him and filed for a provisional patent.

Later, while doing some research online, Joi found a product designer and contacted him. After numerous revisions, the Step ‘N Wash was born. The Step ‘N Wash is permanently mounted underneath a commercial sink. It remains retracted out of the way of adults but when a young child needs a step, it allows the child to step up and see above the countertop without the help of their parents.

While it would be nice to say that the story ends happily ever after, this was only the beginning. Along with two kids, a demanding job and mountains of debt from the development of her product, her husband was diagnosed with a brain tumor and required chemotherapy during their second year of business.

The product wasn’t selling well because it was a new concept and commercial clients wanted to know who else was using it. Joi had to give away many of her Step ‘N Wash stools to in order to build a list of “satisfied customers”. From there, zoos, airports, and other public places began purchasing the nearly $500 product. During the beginning stages, she was shot down, sometimes very pointedly, by potential customers but she just kept trying while finding time to work and tend to her challenging family life.

Today, the Step ‘N Wash is the business she dreamed of having and it’s a full time venture for her husband who is now cancer free. Sales are up more than 300% from 2009 and she sees the 5 million public restrooms as a major growth market. She gives this advice to anybody looking to start a business:

1.)    Don’t wait for the ideal time. Life won’t give it to you.

2.)    Patent your idea even if it’s a provisional patent.

3.)    File incorporation documents for your business.

4.)    It’s your business and its success or failure depends on you.

One could argue that the reason there aren’t more entrepreneurs is because the “why not’s” overshadow people’s dreams and if anybody had a lot of why not’s, it’s Joi. Do you have an idea like the Step ‘N Wash? Put aside the why not’s and get started today.