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Good, Clean Fun

A soap dispenser transforms a patent lawyer into an entrepreneur.
October 1, 2006
URL: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/167890

What: A soap dispenser that teaches kids to wash their hands properly
Who: John Lynn of SquidSoap LP
Where: Austin, Texas
When: Started in 2005

John Lynn's time as a patent lawyer for DuPont came in handy when he started a business and had to file patents for his own product, SquidSoap. The pump on Lynn's soap dispenser marks hands with a washable ink that only disappears after the proper amount of hand washing, teaching kids good hygiene skills.

"The most important thing when you have a simple idea like ours is to have good intellectual property protection, or you'll get creamed by the big boys," Lynn says.

Lynn, 48, has three patents issued on a product he originally thought wouldn't sell. His idea for SquidSoap came during a hiking trip in Nepal, where guards stood outside the mess tents making sure everyone cleaned his or her hands in a bucket of potassium permanganate before entering. The solution-poisonous salt dissolved in water-acts as a disinfectant.

"It was fascinating that, in one of the poorest countries in the world, [they] have figured out how to keep people from getting sick by being hygienic with their hands," Lynn says. He wanted to create a product teaching better hygiene in the U.S. and decided on the soap dispenser after several market research tests.

Today, SquidSoap can be found in 200 stores throughout 12 states, selling for $3.99 to $4.99. The company's 2006 sales are expected to reach $500,000 to $1 million, and Lynn hints that other hygiene products are on the way.

As far as making the transition from working for a large corporation to working for himself, Lynn enjoys the efficiency in decision making. He calls his business a gamble, saying, "It's playing with your own money, not other people's."