The most feared place on earth? We’re pretty sure it’s the gas station bathroom. It’s rare that you’ll find one that doesn’t make you wish you’d just held it until you got home. But Rob Poleki has a gas station bathroom to thank for his company, Washie.
While helping his 4-year-old use a gas station bathroom, Rob was struck with an idea that would change the course of his life. His son refused to sit on the toilet seat, even with seat covers. The covers kept falling in, his son wasn’t having it, and the bathroom line kept growing. Rob grabbed some paper towels, put soap on them, and disinfected the seat.
That worked for his son and gave Rob the idea to create a smart toilet seat that has a built-in sanitizer cartridge. “If everything else in the bathroom is hands-free for the sake of germs,” he thought, “why isn’t the dirtiest part of the bathroom hands-free?” Washie toilet seats have now helped over 1 million people have a more positive bathroom experience!
The toilet seats connect to an app that allows the maintenance team to see when the sanitizer is getting low or when to replace the battery. As an elected official in Idaho for most of his life, Rob could never have guessed that one day he’d tell people he sold toilet seats.
Listen to the full episode for Rob’s experience as an immigrant from New Zealand and his journey with Washie. He’s joined by Washie co-founder Dustin Kenyon, who’s brought his impressive Saas and sales experience to Washie to help it take off.
After decades in the sales space—at well-funded, revenue-pumping companies—Dustin was ready for a change. But moving to the start-up space was a major risk. After seeing Rob on LinkedIn for a while, he decided to message him and make the connection. Dustin took the plunge and joined Rob as co-founder of Washie.
He brings years of corporate culture and experience to the table, which is essential for start-up success. But he reminded listeners that when you’re on the start-up journey, you have to focus on learning, trying, and doing. Key performance indicators are important but more than anything, it’s a time to fail and grow.
When Rob got his patent for Washie in the mail, his first thought was, “I’m going to be rich!” He soon realized that there was a lot more to a successful business than getting patented. Since getting the patent in 2018, it’s been a grind.
He has to remind himself every day why he left his comfortable job in government to go out on a limb and start a business. Dustin adds that it was the proximity to solving customer problems that pulled him into a start-up in the first place.
There will probably be times throughout every day that you want to quit—remind yourself why you started in the first place.
For the full episode and all of Rob and Dustin’s words of wisdom, listen here!