The goal of Hardly Hustle is to provide inspiration, drive and motivation in a 10 minute read or less. What you see is what you get. This is hot off the press without an editing team.
Rob Poleki is up.
Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Rob Poleki and I am the CEO and Founder of the Washie toilet seat. Prior to founding this company I was in the government sector as an elected official in state of Idaho. One day I was sitting at my desk and I thought to myself there has to be something more than a 9-5. So I started to look back at list of ideas I had been storing on my phone and saw this idea I thought of when I took my son to the restroom at the Salt Lake city airport. This was an idea that no one had innovated on and that was paper toilet seat covers. Sounds crazy, but I was at my desk and wanted to do more with my life, so this is what I picked. I tell people now, politics to toilets, it is the same crappy business except people in the facilities space are much nicer.
I started Washie Toilet Seat with zero knowledge about how to create a product, let alone a business. I graduated college with a social work degree. I tell people my masters is in Google and Youtube. I just figured it out.
What did it take / how did you get started?
Mentally I had to make sure my wife was on board. It was important to me to have her support on this to take a new path in my career. On the physical side of the product, I started by making a prototype at Home Depot. In the winter in Idaho, it is very cold, yet I was drilling holes into stuff to make a very ugly prototype in my garage... but the concept was there and I could create it myself.
From there, I took the prototype and showed a few people like my parents, siblings, close friends, and they were all like yeah this is great. Looking back however, I should have done more customer validation. However, I thought it was a great idea and so did my family and friends and so I dove into it 100%. Haven't looked back since.
What does the future look like for you and your hustle?
This is one of the toughest things i've done in my life. To invent a product and have the slightest clue as to what manufacturing, production and prototyping looks like is challenging. Also, now transitioning to the sales world in order to launch a product that will change culture and the restroom industry... It's hard. However, the future looks really bright for us. We have so many people that are interested in this product. We just need to execute.
What drives / motivates you?
I came from humble beginnings as an immigrant to this country. So first, I owe my parents a lot because my parents have done everything they can to provide for me and now I have the chance to make something of my life in order to make sure their sacrifices were worth something. Secondly, I want to give my kids what i've never had. I had to go door to door selling food to make ends meet growing up. Also, now that i've taken on investor money from family and friends, it is my duty to make sure they get a return on their investment.
What advice would you give someone interested in doing what you do?
I get messages i'd say at least 3 times a week by people asking what the first step is and how they should start their journey. I tell them the first step is to jump. People are so afraid of failing, making the jump and or embarrassing themselves, that they never end up doing anything. First step is to start doing something; start something today and don't hold back.
What has been the hardest part of the hustle?
Rejection has been the hardest part. I have been rejected I can't even count how many times. Rejected on patents, rejected on demos, rejected on investors, rejection even on Shark Tank. I quit my job for Shark Tank and I made it very far in the interview process and they ended up cutting me. We also had a huge opportunity with an airport, one of the biggest in the US, and was rejected from that.
What are a few resources that you'd recommend?
Youtube and Google because everything is on there. It's the foundation. I didn't even need a degree to start Washie. If my parents didn't push me into getting a degree, I'd say screw the degree. You don't necessarily need one. You need real life experience and hustle.
Side or full-time hustle?
List the founders
2 founders - myself and Dane Simmons.
How many hours a week do you work on this hustle?
Never stops (60-80)
# of Employees?
When did you start?
Had the idea in 2015, got my first patent in 2018 and in 2019 I quit my job as an elected official and cashed in the 401k to go Washie full-time.
How much did it cost to launch?
I've put a little over $100k of my own money.
What were your funding methods and ballpark amount raised?
Friends and family and cashed in my 401k were my funding methods and i've raised about $600k to date.
Just started selling. COVID has blessed and cursed us.
Working on perfecting the product first and foremost, but just about to ramp it up on the sales side.
Any call to action?
Hiring a big sales team in Utah, so reach out if that's you. Also, I am looking for warm introductions into facilities or facility management folks (I don't come from the product or sales side) ... cold calling sucks.