Business inspiration can be anywhere. One inventor found it in a simple household item

Jimmy Gould
Jimmy Gould

While many believe most new business opportunities come out of technology, that isn’t always the case. Sometimes, inspiration is found by looking around the house. Consider the bar of soap.

Soap is a relatively simple product – and, believe it or not, it has been around for more than 4,000 years. So why would Jimmy Gould want to change it?

Because this career changer had a good idea that he turned into a full-fledged business. After three decades in the investment world, Gould founded SoapStandle, a handy, eco-friendly tiny tool that sinks its “teeth” into bar soap, creating a platform that keeps the soap elevated.

What makes SoapStandle so special is it allows the bar soap to shed water and dry.  That ensures that “goo” never develops. Made of recyclable material, SoapStandle provides a no-slip grip and makes bars of soap last up to 30 percent longer, the company says.

“It’s very simple, but does complex things by allowing water to escape like it wants,” said Gould. “And it leads to better outcomes—no mess, less plastic, even happier sea turtles. It really is a no-brainer. Every bar of soap should have a SoapStandle—it’s like the eraser on a pencil.”

We asked this former finance expert about his experience, lessons learned and where he finds inspiration.

Q: As an inventor, where do you find inspiration?
A: All around. I’ve always tried to find a better way to do things. As a kid, my dad—the engineer— interpreted that as “easier” and he may have felt I was a little lazy. But if I spent 10 minutes thinking about the best way to mow the lawn and that saved me even five minutes in mowing, then over the next 200 times I did it that would be a great thing (and when you’re 10 years old you’re sure you’ll be doing that the rest of your life). That’s the goal – a better way. And in the case of SoapStandle, I found inspiration in the house with something people use every day.

Q: What is the biggest lesson about people or products that you’ve learned from creating a new product?
A: How willing others are to help. Coming from a finance/investments background, it’s been a steep learning curve on design, manufacturing, packaging, etc. I’ve had people intrigued with the Soap-Standle idea/process step forward and point the way for me all along the way and it’s still happening. Outside of technology, it’s tough to come up with something “new.” That’s why I was surprised when I started this. Soap has been around for thousands of years, and the SoapStandle is so simple—I thought it would be out there somewhere and it wasn’t. So even though a lot has been invented, there are still new things that come up.

Q: What can entrepreneurs learn from your product and process of developing it?
A: There are ideas still out there that apply to millions, even billions, of people. As an example, just in the U.S., 200 million people use bar soap twice per day, and the SoapStandle can make each use better. We had a design that “worked”—it was effective, but wasn’t “quite right.” It was the right size and dimension, but wasn’t comfortable yet. We went through more than 20 design improvements to reach what I was just told, “works like a dream.”

Q: What else do you want people to know about you?
A: I love what I’m doing. There are lots of things we all think about and would like to do, but don’t. Try it—write the book that’s in your head, make the prototype from the napkin doodle you drew at dinner, sketch out the movie storyboard you see in your mind, take the next step towards making whatever is rattling around in your brain a reality. You’ll be glad you did.