What: Water-preserving cubes for public restrooms
Who: Damian Cox of Ecoblue
Where: Tucson, Ariz.
When: Started in 2005
Startup costs: $200,000
Born and raised in Australia, Damian Cox spent most of his adult life working in hospitality and in his financial planning practice. It wasn't until a local distributor showed him an innovative new product that he started thinking about switching gears. The product, a small cube that helps conserve water in public restrooms, was the key to Cox's new business goal: to do something sustainable for the environment. "As part of a capitalist system for years," says Cox, 46, "I didn't feel good about what I was doing." So Cox sold his practice in 2005 and signed on to become the Americas distributor for the product he renamed the Ecoblue Cube, a nontoxic and biodegradable cube that reduces water usage in public urinals by 99 percent.
In 2006, Cox moved to San Francisco to get Ecoblue off the ground. But after spending 16 months making little headway in San Francisco, Cox began to think his timing was off; people just weren't interested in the new technology. But he wasn't ready to give up. He took a three-week road trip to scope out potential markets and ended up relocating to Arizona, where the product got a positive response. Today, the company primarily distributes the cube in the U.S., and Cox plans to develop a network and client base of distributors throughout North and South America. With 2008 sales of about $200,000, Cox continues to focus on marketing the idea of conserving water and energy, a huge priority in his own life. "[It's] great to be able to introduce a product and get people excited," says Cox. "I think the work I'm doing now is so much more important."