Squatty Potty: Turning an Embarrassing Product into a Success
By Taylor Sisk, Staples® Contributing Writer
Judy Edwards had some issues of a private nature: some elimination problems involving her colon. The solution was a simple one: squatting. And the outcome was an unusual and now very successful new product: Squatty Potty.
Judy is now in business with her husband, Bill, and son, Bobby, operating out of Saint George, UT. Their flagship product is a stool that allows you to raise your knees when using the toilet, and it captured the imagination of Shark Tanks Kevin OLeary, scoring them a deal when they appeared on the show.
Judy and Bobby recently shared with us some observations on the launching of their business and how it felt to be in the Tank.
Your first marketing of Squatty Potties was giving them as Christmas presents to family and friends. That must have been quite an unexpected gift.
Bobby: Yes. And that was a big hurdle at the outset getting over the taboo topic of what our product is about. The Squatty Potty, most importantly, is a health tool. Yes, it has to do with elimination and poop, which can get funny. But its also very important. Were about helping people and changing peoples lives. And so many people are suffering.
So we pushed through there are a lot of puns here because we knew we had something that would help people, including lots of people that we knew. The response was overwhelming, and we knew very early we were onto something.
What were your initial steps?
Bobby: We perfected the product. We knew the concept worked: Changing your posture can help you eliminate better. We knew that. So we said, now lets create the perfect product to achieve that. There were a lot of prototypes...
Judy: ...and we weren't all in agreement on those things. Family business is great, but were not all of the same mind, which is good. Bobby is so creative, and I had this issue with my colon. So we brought our perspectives together. As a mom, I wanted to make the product as simple and inexpensive as possible. Those were my biggest things.
Bobby: We arent interested in selling snake oil. We wanted to test our concept to make certain it really would work and that people would respond to it.
After perfecting the product, the next step was to get the word out there. There are a lot of ways you can do that. The most effective thing we did was sending out free Squatty Potties to any influencer that we could find anyone who was writing about vegetarianism, the paleo diet or alternative health. Or to mommy blogs, because a lot of mothers, post-partum or even during pregnancy, experience problems with constipation and elimination. Even if they had a small audience, I would offer to send them a Squatty Potty. So what happened was that people started writing about it. And it just grew from there.
When did you really start to believe this was going to be successful?
Judy: There was just this drive that Ive never felt before, and all of us felt it. Call it inspiration, call it divine guidance anybody can put their interpretation on it. But I just kept having this voice say to me, Youve got to bring this to market. This is going to help a lot of people. You have to do this. No matter how unglamorous it is. I mean, if we had just been looking for a product to make money on, it definitely would not be a poop stool.
When did you first take Squatty Potty out to the public?
Judy: We first took it to a tradeshow called What Women Want. Women would come down the aisles and they would see our model and they would just turn their heads and walk by as fast as they could. They were so embarrassed. And we thought, Boy, weve got a long ways to go to get this message across.
Bobby: The first pitch fails, right? So it wasnt a success in that we sold a lot of Squatty Potties that day. But it was a success in that it helped us shape how we talked about the product. We got better at navigating the topic. Then we took that to our website, and people started buying.
Judy: We learned that if you have one happy customer, youve got 20 more buyers.
Bobby: Word of mouth has been very valuable. About 20 percent of our buyers have heard about it from a family member or a friend.
How did you get the funds together?
Bobby: Initially, we were self-funded. Mom and Dad reached into their retirement.
Judy: We also used a line of credit on a home that we own. I just felt so strongly about this issue that I was willing to risk what it was going to take. We have another son who also invested. But it wasn't that much: It was about $30,000 to start.
What was it like being on Shark Tank?
Judy: Scariest thing Ive ever done in my life. You dont know what to expect. Id watched Shark Tank a lot, and Id seen people get brutalized on the show, and Id felt sorry for them. I wondered if that happened to me, would it be worth it? What are they going to think of our product, being the type of product that it is?
Bobby: But thank goodness, they liked it. They got it right away; they all did. Kevin OLeary, notoriously the most brutal one, said, This is the first crappy idea that I like. And he came right out with an offer. They were all very receptive.
What do you like best about being an entrepreneur?
Judy: Freedom from what? We work our tails off.
Bobby: Yeah, but its different than when youre punching a time clock. We do work long hours. But I feel freer. Youre mostly controlling the show.
Whats in the future for Squatty Potty?
Bobby: Well be introducing some new products. Weve barely scratched the surface. Our mission is to change the way America poops...
Judy: ...one stool at a time.
Watch Shark Tank Fridays 9|8c on ABC.