People 19 November 2018
Shubham Issar and Amanat Anand co-founders of SoaPen met during their college years. Now they are both invested in their passion of bringing awareness and teaching kids proper hand washing. Their idea was to create a product that will make it fun for kids to wash their hands while learning about the risk of germs.
While going through the concept of creating SoaPen it introduced them to shocking statistics.
“In developing nations, over 1.5 million children under the age of 5 die due to infectious illnesses that can be prevented by the simple act of washing hands with soap. A lack of awareness and lack of access to soap are some of the barriers that prevent kids from washing hands." Schools are where majority of the diseases are transmitted among children.
While they are now launching a successful business, Issar and Anand faced challenges along the way. They said research and development and finding the right business partners were difficult.
“Recently our focus has shifted to getting the word out of our launch through various marketing channels which has been a challenge due to our small startup budget. We're facing all challenges head on creatively!"
SoaPen changes the way kids wash their hands, making it easily accessible with the placement of soap from the restroom to the classroom. The product consists of a portable alternative to sanitizers. Moms and kids on the go can carry it in their bags and never miss a hand wash.
Photo courtesy of SoaPen.com
The co-founders thought creatively of a new way to incentivize kids to enjoy the hand washing process by allowing them to draw with their product on their hands. Then under water, kids would need to really rub their hands to remove all traces of the drawing- washing their hands for the right amount of time which is 20 to 40 seconds. On the other hand, teachers and parents can now check if the kids actually washed their hands by looking for any left over traces of the drawing.
Their vision was for SoaPen to make a boring and simple task such as handwashing fun, simple and colorful! Issar and Anand emphasized “SoaPen is a great teaching tool for kids between 3 and 8 years of age and it encourages them to wash their hands.
The time they wash for is intuitive with SoaPen and parents don't have to sing the Happy Birthday song all the time to make sure kids wash their hands!" Their goal is to raise awareness around the benefits of hand washing and promote global access to soap.
In order to encourage hand washing habits all over the world, the company launched a social initiative where for every 3 SoaPens sold in the US, they will donate 1 SoaPen to a low income school. During Issar and Amanat's visit to schools in Mumbai, India they realized that even when soap was being donated to schools, teachers would store it away in their closets fearing over pumping of liquid soap or stealing.
“They would take it out once during the mid day meal and line up the students to put a coin sized amount on their hands which is a big hassle as the student teacher ratio in these classrooms would end up being 60 students to 1 teacher and kids would end up washing their hands once a day if at all."
In many ways I am a shining example of the American Dream. I was born in Hungary during the Communist era, and my family fled to Israel before coming to the U.S. in pursuit of freedom and safety. When we arrived, I was just a young, shy girl who couldn't speak English. After my childhood in Hungary, New York City was a marvel; I couldn't believe that such a lively, rich place existed. Even a simple thing like going to the market and seeing all the bright, colorful produce and having so many choices was new to me. I'll never take that for granted. I think it's where my love affair with color truly began.
One thing I had was a strong work ethic. I worked hard in school, to learn English, and at jobs including my first job at Dairy Queen -- which I loved! Ice cream is easily my favorite food. From there, I moved into the garment district where my brother-in-law's family had a business. During this time, I was able to see how a business was run and began to hone in on my eye for aesthetics and willingness to work hard at any task I was given.
Eventually, my brother-in-law bought a dental supply company in Los Angeles and asked me to join him. LA, a place with 365-days of sunshine. How could I say no? The company started as Odontorium Products Inc. During the acrylic movement of the 1980s, we realized that nail technicians were buying our product, and that the same components used for dentures were used for artificial nails. We saw a potential opening in the market, and we seized it. OPI began dropping off the "rubber band special" at every salon on Ventura Blvd. in Los Angeles. A jar of powder, liquid and primer – rubber-banded together – became the OPI Traditional Acrylic System and was a huge hit, giving OPI its start in the professional nail industry. It was 1981 when OPI first opened its doors. I couldn't have predicted our success, but I knew that hard work and faith in myself would be key in transforming a new business into a company with global reach.
When we started OPI, what we were doing was something new. Before OPI came on the scene, the generic, utilitarian nail polish names already on the market – like Red No. 4, Pink No. 2 – were completely forgettable. We rebranded the category with catchy names that we knew women could relate to and would remember. The industry was stale and boring, so we made it more fun and sexy. We started creating color collections. I carefully developed 30 groundbreaking colors for the debut collection -- many of which are still beloved bestsellers today, including Malaga Wine, Alpine Snow and Kyoto Pearl.
There is no other nail color brand in the world that touches the totality of industries the way OPI does.
With deep roots in Tinseltown, we eventually started collaborating with Hollywood. Our decision to collaborate with the entertainment industry also propelled OPI forward in another way, ultimately leading us to finding a way to connect with women beyond the world of beauty, relating our products to the beverages they drink, the cars they drive, the movies they watch, the clothes they wear – even the shade they use to paint their living room walls! There is no other nail color brand in the world that touches the totality of industries the way OPI does. It also propelled my growth as a businessperson forward. I found myself sitting in meetings with executives from some of the top companies in the world. I didn't have a fancy presentation. I didn't have a Harvard business degree. I realized that what I had was passion. I had a passion for what we were doing, and I had my own unique story that no one else could replicate.
Discipline, hard work, and passion gave me the confidence to grow from that shy immigrant girl to become the person that I am today
Bit by bit, I grew up with the business. Discipline, hard work, and passion gave me the confidence to grow from that shy immigrant girl to become the person that I am today -- an author, public speaker, and co-founder of OPI, the world's #1 professional nail brand.
I learned quickly that one can be an expert at many things, but not everything. Running a business is very hard work. Luckily, I had someone I could collaborate with who brought something new to the table and complemented my talents, my brother-in-law George Schaeffer. My business "superpower," or the ability to make decisions quickly and confidently, kept me ahead of trends and competition.
Another key to my success in building this brand and in growing in business was being authentic. Authenticity is so important to brands and maybe even more so now in the time of social media when you can speak directly to your consumers. I realized even then that I could only be me. I was a woman who knew what I wanted. I looked at my mother and daughter and wanted to create products that would excite and empower them.
There's often an expectation placed on women in charge that they need to be cutthroat to be competitive, but that's not true. Rather than focusing on my gender or any implied limitations I might bring to the job as a female and a mother, I always focused instead on my vision. I deliberately fostered an environment at OPI filled with warmth. After all, at the end of the day, your organization is only as good as its people. I've always found that being nice, being humble, and listening to others has served me well. Instead of pushing others down to get to the top, inspire them and bring them along on the journey.
You can read more about my personal and professional journey in my new memoir out now, I'm Not Really a Waitress: How One Woman Took Over the Beauty Industry One Color at a Time.