Ever try to remove or move a toilet? It's a dirty, gunk-filled, watery job.
But one local man and his business partner an active plumber are trying to make the work a little easier and less messy for the do-it-yourself home remodelers and the professional plumber.
"When you pull a toilet you have to deal with water left in the trap and residue under the wax ring that has built up after years of use. It's very messy," said Ron Nissen, co-creator of the Toilet Boot, a plastic draw-string bootie for toilets. "Most plumbers use scraps of carpet or board to keep the gunk in but inevitably some of it gets out and gets on carpet, floors, whatever."
In comes the Toilet Boot, a two-layer, 2 mil-thick, black plastic draw-string disposable bag that enables plumbers to trap the water and residue inside the bag while removing a toilet.
The idea for the product came out of necessity more than two years ago when Rod McQuarrie, a former Minot resident and professional plumber, called upon Nissen to create a product that would solve this industry-wide problem.
Having had a lifelong passion of creating new products, Nissen said he tinkered with different models and methods for more than year before deciding on the draw-string plastic bag. Since the Toilet Boot's inception six months ago, Nissen and McQuarrie have patented the product, created a trademark, found a manufacturer, stockpiled inventory and have started distributing the product under their company name, Dean Floyd LLC, taken from the middle names of both men.
"We're currently selling at the wholesaler level with Don Stevens, Ferguson Enterprises and Western Steel (and Plumbing) in town and Rod has a company out in Boston carrying the product, but we're still looking for a distribution channel," Nissen said. "That's the hardest part because we're a small fish in the big ocean."
But with the recent uptick in "green" products among them low-flow toilets he said several opportunities exist for the product, and the company has been in talks recently with several individuals and companies on the national level.
"The response we've gotten from plumbers has been great. They like it and they want to buy it because it gives a cleaner, more professional look," he said. "A plumber charges $80 an hour, so if it saves him 10 to 15 minutes of work or the cost of cleaning the carpet, it will be well worth the cost of the product."
The toilet boot, not currently sold in retail stores, will be marketed primarily to wholesale and distribution companies rather than individual plumbers with an end-cost to plumbers of approximately $4 to $6 Nissen said.
Although currently a little fish, Nissen and McQuarrie are hoping their participation in the state-run Innovate ND contest which helps entrepreneurs turn ideas into functional businesses with the assistance of the University of North Dakota will help make them a bigger fish and the ocean a little more navigable.
The pair are currently among the top 25 finalists for this year's contest and are anxiously awaiting word of an April contest trimming when the Innovate board will cut five business proposals before the final judging takes place in mid-May.
But this isn't their first run at the Innovate ND $10,000 seed prize.
"We were involved in the contest last year and we made it to the top 30, but we didn't have a product so we we didn't feel we had the ground to stand on. It wasn't a surprise that we got booted," Nissen said. "This year we have a solid product and we feel we have the potential to make it, to win, but if we were to get booted again we hope the exposure (from the contest) will be good and the rapport we have with the UND people will help us grow our business."
If the pair does win the seed money, he said the money will go toward expenses and building up inventory, but regardless, it's full steam ahead for Dean Floyd LLC and Toilet Boot.
"Working on this for two years, we were ready to give up, but working with UND and people in the community we seem to have run into the right people at the right time," Nissen said. "I don't know if it's fate or what, but we're going for it."