From Toilet Seat Covers To Millions!
Larry Pitts, who devised CleanSleeve while serving as an accountant and chief financial officer at Montgomery, Ala-based Colonial Co. (he left the company last year), says he was stunned by the initial interest in the item expressed by friends and business associates.
“The idea of a portable slip-on toilet seat cover began as a joke,” Pitts comments. “However, we found that an average of nine out of every 10 women to whom we spoke about the concept said, ‘Where can we buy the product?’ We realized that the potential market was enormous.”
CleanSleeve, which comes packaged in rolls of 10 and can be carried in a purse, diaper bag, briefcase or a car’s glove compartment, is available at such leading mass market retailers as CVS Corp., Meijer Inc., Snyder’s Drug Stores, Brooks Pharmacy, Kinney Drugs, Medic Drug and London Drugs. The product, which carries a suggested retail price of $2.99, is also available through the company’s web site (cleansleeve.com) and has been sold to individuals via direct order in Puerto Rico, Turkey, Israel, South Africa, Italy and Hong Kong.
This month CleanSleeve will be shipped to the commissaries of the United States Armed Forces. In addition, New Visions is discussing a plan with Walt Disney Co. to offer CleanSleeve items that would be decorated with licensed Disney characters in Disney’s theme parks.
Next year the vendor will unveil CleanSleeve in various package sizes ranging from single items that are designed for convenience to 20-and 30-count containers.
As part of its efforts to support the program New Visions in March inaugurated a national marketing campaign with advertisements in seven consumer magazines. The ongoing initiative, which Pitts says has led to a tremendous response on the part of consumers, is designed to capitalize on the arrival of summer, a season when many Americans tend to travel.
“Young mothers with children are our largest target audience, followed by travelers,” notes Pitts. “However, the product is designed for everyone who uses public restrooms.”
While specific sales figures are not available, dollar volume of CleanSleeve rose 850% last year in the $4 billion-a-year toilet seat cover industry, according to Pitts.
As a result of the product’s growing popularity, expansion has become a major priority for New Visions. The company, which maintains its corporate offices here and manufacturing facilities in Prattville, Ala., is in the process of consolidating both operations in a new 25,000-square-foot facility in Clanton.
“We have the ability to create 3 million boxes of CleanSleeve on an annual basis today,” Pitts says. “In the next two to three years we expect to make between 6 million and 9 million boxes per year, and to produce up to 40 million boxes annually in the next four to 10 years. The new facility in Clanton will enable us to do that. Our operations will be consolidated under one roof, thereby facilitating manufacturing and distribution of our products.”
Another goal for New Visions is to assist inventors of innovative items in readying those products for market.
“It was so difficult to raise money and keep ownership of the idea for CleanSleeve that we plan to use the success of the product to develop other items and raise capital without large up-front fees,” Pitts notes. “Our strategy for New Visions is to help others bring their original ideas to life and retain majority ownership in their companies in the process.”