2017 INC. 5000 RANK: 2494
HEADQUARTERS: Ramsey, NJ
YEAR FOUNDED: 2009
2016 REVENUE: $8.1 Million
Often the biggest ideas come from your back-up plans. Paul Parisi's family-owned personal care products company ToiletTree Products (#439 on the 2014 Inc. 5000 list of fastest growing private companies) got its start due to a slightly crazy product idea that still hasn't made it to shelves. But in the meantime, ToiletTree is pulling in nearly $3.5 million in annual revenue with items in high demand, such as fogless shaving mirrors and electric toothbrushes. Here's how the Parisi family did it.
When I flew to China with my brother Steve and my dad Gary in 2009, we had an odd request. We wanted Chinese manufacturers to make a blow dryer for razor blades. We had learned that its not usage that dulls razors but oxidation from water on the blades. If people had a contraption to dry their blades, they would be able to use their razors a year or more.
The Chinese executives stared at us blankly. They didn’t get it. So we pulled out our back-up plan: a fogless shower mirror with a new design we invented. That, they understood.
Turns out, that was the best thing that could have happened to our family. I call it a beautiful accident.
My dad, brother, and I actually flew to China on a lark. About that time, my dad’s friend who was a Chinese importer offered to connect us with overseas manufacturers if we ever had an invention. We took him up on the offer. The blow dryer for razer blades was our big idea.
The invention was a way to stay connected with my brother and dad. I come from a stereotypical tight-knit Italian-American family in Nyack, N.Y. We ate pasta every Sunday growing up, a tradition that continues today. But at the time, I was living in San Diego, with a pretty good career as a trial lawyer.
The invention was a reason for us to Skype and collaborate, a hobby of sorts. I figured the blow dryer was a crazy idea that probably would never go anywhere. But I figured at least we would get a memorable vacation together to China.
We went over there with no design or engineering experience, and the blow dryer idea was full of electronics and complicated. The fogless shower mirror was much simpler. We created a patented design based on straight-forward science: Hot water behind the mirror keeps it the same temperature as the hot shower so it’s impossible to fog. This was something the Chinese manufacturing plant could easily produce.
We put that fogless mirror out onto Amazon.com, and that holiday season, we sold 10,000 mirrors, making it the best-selling item in the beauty category that season.
Two years later, sales grew enough that we could quit our jobs, get an office together and focus solely on our new company ToiletTree Products. My friends thought I was crazy, leaving my career as an attorney, especially after being recently promoted and being in a good place at the office. And when I told them the name of my company, they thought I was going home to import toilets.
Still, I moved home, and work became blended with family. Our younger sister, Kelly, became our director of marketing. Along the way, we learned a lot of lessons on customer service, design, and manufacturing and we learned to hire experts who can design products much better than we could have four years ago.
This year, we will have 50 products and distribution in Brookstone, Sharper Image, Bed Bath & Beyond, and CVS. We expect sales to double this year to $6.6 million and the way things look now, we wouldn’t be surprised if they double again next year. One of the next new products we plan to produce early next year? The dryer for razor blades.
As told to Inc. contributing writer Jennifer Alsever.