Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hi everyone! Welcome to my crazy journey! My name is Kressa and I am the inventor of the Shower Toga-The world's first and only waterproof changing garment. And this below is the best picture I have ever taken-lol. People look at me and then look at this photo and say “That’s not you” so I guess the stars were aligned that day. Thank you Mark for inviting me to sit in your chair. So here is my story.
Shower Toga started as a solution for “Me” to clean up after my Spartan Races but I quickly realized that it was also the solution that so many others were looking for outdoor hygiene. After my mud runs I would drive home covered in mud, pond scum, and worse. I would sit in this recipe for hours until I got access to a shower. I knew there had to be a better way, well after researching like a crazy person turns out, there wasn't, so I invented it.
Shower Toga is in no way limited to Spartan racers, in fact, our biggest markets right now are Camping, Surfing, Beachgoers, and healthcare workers for decon. We just finished 2 huge donation campaigns where we donated $100,000.00 in Shower Togas to healthcare workers and first responders who needed a way to decontaminate after being exposed to Covid-19 positive patients. Our second large-scale campaign of donating Shower Togas to the migrant children being held at the border, just recently started with the help of my amazing partner, Mark Cuban (Yes, that Mark Cuban). Mark is an amazing inspiration and I learn from him, and his team, every day.
Giving back is very important to me. I have to say that as a small start-up company, giving back, to the extent that we do, is probably not the smartest financial move but I do my best to balance it. My goal is not to get rich. My goal is to grow my company and have security for my family, but more importantly, it is to make a difference in the lives of others. That can be something as simple as giving someone confidence to grab a bite to eat after a long, sweaty beach day or as complicated as helping a migrant child at the border clean up with privacy & dignity in a safe manner.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
I have always been an entrepreneur and have worked since I was 15. My husband and I owned a home construction business, a printing business, and a direct mail coupon company. I also was a broker for high-end sport horses but I had never invented anything, nor been in retail, in any way, so starting Shower Toga was a leap of faith. (Pun Intended-see Lance leaping)
But the beginning of my journey was not fun and joyful event. It came from sadness and having to dig myself out of a hole of worry. In 2013 I, along with tens of thousands of other people, was diagnosed with breast cancer. When I first heard the news in the doctor's office my world felt like it was crumbling down. It was hard, I wasn’t that happy-go-lucky, life is all dandy kind of person. I made the tough decision to have a double mastectomy so I would not have to go through chemo. After going through the news and the recovery I knew I needed to find something to change my overall health and perspective.
My husband and son had started racing Spartans a few months before I was diagnosed and they fell right in love with the sport. After seeing how much of an impact Spartan Races had on them I figured it’s my time to try this new venture out! I had always been a competitive person in my showjumping career and I needed to feel that "drive" again after being so emotionally crushed from my diagnosis. I needed to do something that allowed me not to "think" for a few hours. Something that allowed me to just "be" and Spartan was 100% that for me.
So many people think they want to be entrepreneurs until they see what goes into it. None of us sit on a yacht drinking cocktails covering ourselves with money. I live in an RV. I sold my house and I traveled around promoting Shower Toga.
I soon started to realize how strong I am mentally and physically. It was the new outlook on life that I was craving. My spirits were up again and I felt like a “new person” but I hated trying to clean up after racing. I had been encountering this problem and inconvenience when traveling and competing in these races for about a year, but a particular race in Asheville beat me down.
As athletes, we end up muddy and filthy with no way to get clean before leaving. I would go into the dark, dingy, stinky changing room with tons of other women, put on a bathing suit, go outside to water hose stations (with hundreds of people around), rinse off the best I could, then go back into the changing room, dry off and get dressed, which was just miserable PLUS I never actually got clean. Sometimes when there were no changing rooms I would put a tablecloth over my head-It was crazy. I just could not do it anymore so I started brainstorming as I knew there had to be a better way…
I paid for a patent search and upon finding nothing similar, took the leap of faith and moved forward to patent the product and manufacture it and put together a Kickstarter campaign-another thing I knew absolutely NOTHING about. I made my first shower toga out of diaper cover material with baby animals printed all over it— the only waterproof material I could find — and started using it myself. “I took it to a race and everyone thought, Oh Kressa, you’ve lost your mind!”. I sat in the middle of all these people, put on my goofy thing, showered, and scrubbed without ever going into the changing tent. I looked like a total idiot but man I was so clean and smelled so good and everyone else was miserable. I truly believed in Shower Toga so wholeheartedly that I knew I had to bring my invention to the mass market. Shower Toga had changed my life and I know others would feel the same way-It was a calling!
Suddenly, it wasn’t just a crazy thing — everyone was borrowing it, to the point where I would lose track of where it was at races. It would crack me up to see these big strong tall men wearing my crazy baby forest animal diaper cover material invention in big crowds of people. But hey, it worked and they knew it and they embraced the Shower Toga with open arms (CLEAN open arms).
Although my prototype worked OK, I knew if I wanted to sell this as a product there was a lot of work to do to the product itself. It needed to be high quality, yet lightweight (5 ounces). It needed to not stick to your body. It needed to wick away water yet be pliable enough to fit inside a 3” by 1 “ mesh bag. It needed to have the elements of an emergency space blanket for cold and windy weather (hence the metallic silver coating). The Shower Toga also doubles as a bag for your dirty gear as well as an environmentally friendly space blanket for warmth, when worn over your dry clothes. We had lots of boxes we wanted to be able to check off and we nailed them all, and then some. We have a very special recipe that took close to a year to formulate. Lots of trial and error and we finally got it just right.
Keep in mind throughout this process I had zero expertise in retail, developing products, manufacturing, fulfillment, and so much more but I just took it one step at a time and never gave up. I had taken about $15K of our money and invested it in the patents etc and I needed to make it work.
Manufacturing is almost always a nightmare, ask anyone. I was fortunate in that I had a good manufacturer to start with but I ended up finding a global manufacturer who is part of our backbone. We are a team and without a great team you will end up feeling very alone. I recommend to anyone starting to remember to consider the people UPI works with to get your product to market “team members” because that is exactly what they are. It does take a village.
I tend to always look for people who are way smarter than me to surround myself with. It works!! If you think something is going to be hard in the development stages of starting your business, you are right and wrong. You're right that it is going to be hard and you are wrong if you think it's only going to be hard. It can feel impossible at times. You will cry and you will feel helpless. As an example, I got “ripped off” by my first 5 companies who I paid to do samples. So you might be thinking here: Bet they were overseas”. Nope!!! None of them were overseas and 2 of them were local in Atlanta.
Now my point in saying that is not to insinuate that you should not use a company in the U.S. My point is you can't assume that they are honest just because they are in the U.S. and they say all the things you want to hear. It was a huge wake-up call for me. I did get some great advice starting and had NDA’s signed by everyone. If you learn nothing else from me, learn this: GET SIGNED NDA’S FROM EVERYONE!!!
Describe the process of launching the business.
I am a big fan of Kickstarter but I am not a big fan of the tons of people who come out of the woodwork. The second you launch a Kickstarter trying to sell you services you do not need. You can do your Kickstarter. It will take time and effort and you have to share like crazy and get everyone you know on board to share as well. You don't need fancy video production. People want to see real people with a real product and an organized plan. Film it with your phone and let people get to know you and why you are launching your product.
Google to get info and watch and read everything you can get your hands on about how to launch a Kickstarter on your own and then just do it. Shower Toga was funded by a bit of our money for the lawyers, patents, and a few other smaller things but my first order of Shower Toga was fully funded with my Kickstarter.
Now to the website. Our original website was so sad, but that is ok. To this date, I still don't have the perfect website. We run way too slow and our conversions are something that we have to try and tweak constantly. I have concluded that no one ever has the perfect website. You can spend 15K every 6 months trying to get that perfect, converting website and in the end, you still won't have it. So what is the answer? I truly don't know so if I have to give you an answer it would be to make sure you have diversified your marketing channels while you continue to tweak things like your website.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
We would be nicely profitable if we quit giving so much away but with that said, we are holding our own and not taking any debt. I do have a large amount of inventory I am carrying right now because I did not want to have logistics nightmares trying to get Shower Togs during the pandemic. I'm glad I did this as so many entrepreneurs have had disastrous consequences trying to get their product.
But with that comes cash flow issues so I have to stay very lean at this time and very careful where I spend to ensure the best potential for a decent ROI in anything I do. We are lucky that we have very healthy margins but with that said, in this day and age you have to or you won't make it due to the enormous cost of social media advertising.
Back in Jan 2021 we, and most others were seeing FB ads anywhere from 2-5 ROAS. Now you simply can't get those numbers as Facebook doesn't even know what the hell is going on and guess what, neither do any of the AGENCIES! If they tell you they have a secret sauce you need to run, not walk. I have an agency I use now who is very successful and well known in the viral video ads space-trust me-you know them-they rock!
And I also have the absolute best guy ever, Joe who is probably the smartest guy I know when it comes to FB. But he is also hilarious and so much fun but more importantly, the guy cares...I mean...He freaking cares.
My team works their butts off and they are honest and we are all trying to figure out what the landscape is going to look like in 6 months, but whatever it does look like, it won't ever look the same as it did.
We have a brand new product coming out this month that I am super excited about. We will be launching it on Kickstarter in the next couple of weeks. It is amazing and I'm super proud of my husband and our manufacturer for working so hard on making it perfect. It will be a product that you attach to a bottle to have a handheld shower. I can share more info next week after the lawyers have finished-lol.
We have a wonderful company, Jolity, who handles all our Amazon sales. I am very thankful for them as Amazon is hard. Our sales have skyrocketed since they came on board about a year ago. Pick your Amazon partner carefully, they have a lot of power and control over your brand and as I said before, make sure it's someone who feels like part of the team. I love Dylan and Max with Jolity and they have earned my confidence. I am a pretty big fan of using Amazon. Love them or hate them, they are not going anywhere so you better get used to it.
I am also becoming a fan of Google ads. I looked long and hard for a company to help me with SEO and Google Ads and I finally found a company in India that is run by some of the smartest and kindest people on the planet. The name of the company is EvenDigit. If anyone wants an intro to either of the above companies please let me know and I will connect you with my team there.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
I worked my butt off to get on Shark Tank, which I came to find out is so insanely hard. Looking back, I am glad I did not know how difficult it was going to be when I first thought of it. It took so many "no, not at this time," and "we love your product but it's just not the right time" etc, etc. You get the idea. But it was just an obstacle, I had overcome so many other obstacles that the No did not phase me and I kept fighting back to get on.
Eventually, the casting team, whom I had gotten and still are, super close to, went in the meetings with Executive producers and fought hard for me. Those girls believed in me 100%. One of them even went into the casting meeting wearing my Shower Toga. And that is women supporting women if I have ever seen it!! Finally, we were approved to fly to LA. That does not mean that you will film, and even if you film there is a big chance you will not air. I knew we had to stand out and leave nothing on the table.
We nailed it and had the best time ever. We got a deal with the amazing Mark Cuban. Mark is so involved in Shower Toga. He is truly the best shark in my opinion and I talk with him weekly. He is not only an amazing mentor but he is an amazing person. I learned so much going through that entire process and although it was beyond tough the lessons learned were like Gold!
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
We use Shopify and I like it. We also love Klaviyo for email. I am still handling my fulfillment and Shopify works very well for self-fulfillment. So many startup companies outsource fulfillment and I think that is a huge mistake. You lose so much control and it is very expensive. I like to package my products. I write notes on the bags to let our customers know I appreciate them.
This may sound time-consuming but for now, it is important to me. It helps me feel connected to each and every customer who is spending their hard-earned money on Shower Toga and supporting me and my company. I will sit late in the evening and write on polybags and that is actually when I relax. It has become a ritual that I enjoy. When you are starting you have to stay lean. You have to know how to do everything yourself first before you can let others take it over. I think it's really important as you never know when you may just have to come back to it.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
So this may sound funny but the documentary Jim & Andy. It is about the making of the movie Man on the Moon about Andy Kaufman but, for me, it is about Jim Carry and his messaging about certain things that struck me. It may not be the same for you but I have watched it 2 times in the last 48 hours and it made me feel even braver, even riskier and it just gave me an all-around more relaxed feel about what we are all going through trying to do the best we can for ourselves and others. In the end, if you don’t know yourself (which he admittingly says he doesn't in other interviews), that is still ok. Do any of us know ourselves completely? Something about that message made me feel less stressed.
I don't read business books because they bore me to tears. I do listen to Gary Vee and Joe Rogan but here is the thing about them. Gary Vee is from a different planet (and I say this with love) and Joe Rogan is way too damn smart (Like seriously way too F-ing smart). I still listen to both of them and wish I could meet them someday but that would be way more for my enjoyment than theirs-lol. I would probably drive Gary Vee crazy and Joe would tell me that I'm just not cool enough to hang with him and he would be right.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?
Make sure it's what you want. It's ok if it's not. So many people think they want to be entrepreneurs until they see what goes into it. None of us-Ok, very few, sit on a yacht drinking cocktails covering ourselves with money. I live in an RV. I sold my house and I travel around promoting Shower Toga. It can be rough sometimes. I pay myself $1300 a MONTH. Yep, that's right. After working on this business for close to 4 years (not paying myself anything the first 2 years), I make $1300 a month. You will not get rich quickly and once you average it out you will most likely make about $19 an hour.
But if it is in your blood then you simply won't have a choice. I have hustled since I was a kid. The first thing I sold was bugs in little matchboxes. Yep, I would put grass and a few rocks in different size matchboxes and then add a cool spider or beetle or worm and I would peddle around the neighborhood selling them. In all the podcasts and interviews I have done I have never told anyone about that. It always seemed kinda gross but now I have gotten to a point where I think it's funny. I always charged a lot more when I sold the bugs with a piece of petrified wood. My friend's house had a bunch of it in their yard. You have to have that drive and that hustle in you. You have to believe in the process.
Oh and try out for Shark Tank, try out again and again until you get on and get a deal with Mark Cuban. It is the BEST show ever created.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
I have the best brand development manager in the world and my plan is for her to grow with Shower Toga to the top!! She also shares, and lives, the vision of Shower Toga by traveling the country with her boyfriend and pup in a pop-up. I also have to throw her a plus for her company which is solely responsible for every piece of jewelry I wear and a few of my clothing items. You may order from her (but don't order so much that she leaves me-:))
I have the best marketer on staff and we call ourselves the 3 musketeers so it appears I can’t bring anyone else on right now as it will screw up our mojo.
We would consider a student who wants to intern for copyrighting and possibly another for graphic design but both of those would be part-time and nonpaying during the internship.
So in closing, we would truly appreciate your support of Shower Toga. I know it may sound silly but I truly love all of my customers. I love my Spartan family and I love supporting fellow human beings. Without you and your support of Shower Toga, I could never have done it. Shower Toga has gained so much traction into Camping, Surfing, Healthcare, Beach vacations, etc but it all started with a girl doing a Spartan Race and people believing in her and her mission.
I am lucky enough to be that girl and I hope I can make you all proud and make the world a better place because of that. We are still a small company and your orders and support mean the world to us. Every day I package our orders and think about how much I appreciate the journey. It has been crazy, tough with lots of high points as well as lots of tears. I would not have it any other way. Anything worth doing is hard. And a very special thank you to Mark Cuban and the entire cast at Shark Tank. You may think it's just a TV show and you would be wrong.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
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