Body wipes offered a sporting chance for success

Jim Bahcall isn’t out to save the world. But he is trying to make it more convenient.

The Marquette University dental professor and entrepreneur is the creator of Paper Shower, a handy body-wipe and towel for those times a real shower isn’t available. It’s more than just a wet wipe, Bahcall says, it’s a “shower-in-a-pack.”

An avid bicyclist, Bahcall got the idea for his product while freshening up before a visit to Starbucks in 2009. Bahcall says he often used standard wet wipes to get rid of the sweat and grime after a long bike ride, but on this particularly humid day the alcohol-based wipes left his skin uncomfortably dewy.

“I thought, ‘How often do you take a shower and not have a towel?’ ” Bahcall recalled.

Even with his professional and business background, Bahcall mulled over his idea for nearly a year until he mentioned it to a patent attorney at Boyle and Frederickson, a Milwaukee firm specializing in intellectual property law. Vice President Keith Baxter told Bahcall that the Paper Shower was a great idea and “a nice little product.”

With confidence anew, Bahcall went to work poring over research and looking for a niche in the market. When he found it, he wrote his business plan on a paper napkin, then contacted manufacturers, designers, potential business partners and investors. He found five. With $100,000 in hand Bahcall said he went from concept to product in 90 days.

“It was an incredibly short time,” said Baxter who supports the endeavor but is not an investor. “I’m thinking ‘This guy moves really fast!’ ”

A provisional patent was filed last year, which allows the product to be given “patent pending” status, and an official filing will be completed soon, Baxter said.

Priced at $1, the modernly designed dual pack is manufactured in Wisconsin and contains two 9-by-12 inch sheets: one wet wipe and one dry.

Bahcall limited the amount of alcohol in the wet wipe, which also contains saline, soap and water, and moisturizers such as aloe vera and vitamin E. Although advertised as unscented, the wet wipe has a refreshing and pleasant scent, and both wipes are soft to the touch.

The wipes are partially made from recycled materials, are biodegradable and sized to fit into any bag.

Besides bicyclists, Bahcall sees a practical product for runners, campers and motorcyclists. Soon, he will be pitching his product to the travel industry.

Baxter sees Paper Shower ending up in everything from gym bags to diaper bags.

“It’s sort of high-end,” Baxter said. “But, there is a good market for it.”

The challenge, he said, is educating consumers about the brand.

Bahcall alluded to Purell, the popular hand-sanitizer. When the hand-gel first launched, few people understood its purpose, Bahcall said, but it quickly grew to a universally recognized brand. He hopes the same will happen with Paper Shower.

Despite his obvious enthusiasm, Bahcall doesn’t have dollar signs in his eyes just yet.

“I’m not quitting my day job,” he laughs, although his long-term goal includes a potential buyout.

Bahcall said he is in talks with mom-and-pop retailers, distributors and big box stores such as L.L. Bean and Dick’s Sporting Goods. Ideally, he would like to capture about 5% of the personal wipes market.

That’s a tough market to break into, said Ian Butler, director of market research and statistics for the Association of the Nonwoven Fabrics Industry, based in Cary, N.C. Nonwoven fabrics are big business. Butler said sales of personal wipes total more than $800 million annually. Baby wipes, the forerunner to personal wipes, generate about $1 billion.

But Butler isn’t passing judgment on the potential success of Paper Shower.

“I haven’t seen any on the market that have two wipes. It is unique,” Butler said cautiously. “I haven’t seen any wipes at this point which are sporting wipes. What happens is, people buy baby wipes and people use them for everything.”

Bahcall won’t easily be deterred. He is a prime self-promoter and does not advertise. When he is not teaching, he is attending various trade shows across the country, passing out free samples and promoting his product via news and social media outlets, like Facebook and Twitter.

While his product is not yet sold in stores, he has sold 12,000 units through his website – about $12,000 in revenue. When Paper Shower eventually hits store shelves, he plans to capitalize on impulse buyers, placing his product near the checkout aisle.

“Sometimes it’s the simplest products that are the best products,” Bacall said. “You don’t realize how often you’re out there without soap and water.”

Source: JSOnline

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