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Steve Waddell - Nasoni

Steve Waddell worked for 25 years at Newport News Shipbuilding, building nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and submarines. He started out as an Apprentice, spending seven years on the waterfront, 12 in engineering where he developed the risk management process for the company as the yard's risk management subject matter expert, and six in IT as a senior project manager. During his time there, he became known for his process improvement expertise. Following that, an opportunity came up to help grow his wife's government consulting and training business Reed Integration, Inc., and he spent the next 7 years working there. During the last few years working for her company, after being inspired by Shark Tank, his process improvement background motivated Steve to solve one of his own problems around the house. Like many, he didn't like sticking his head under the faucet to rinse after he brushed his teeth and wanted a better solution. He and his wife have always been captivated by Italy, with its enchanting history of Venetian canals, Tuscan vineyards, and Roman ruins like the Colosseum. While watching a video of Rome, they happened to see two young girls on a cobblestone street watering their dog at a street fountain known as a "nasoni". Before taking a drink themselves, they covered the downward facing spout with their hand to send a fountain of water arcing out of the top and into their mouths. Steve was mesmerized: with one simple action the faucet became a water fountain and that was when the spark of inspiration fired inside him: why aren't all bathroom faucets like this? And his company Nasoni was born.

Steve started out on a day off, New Year's Day January 2014, and made a proof of concept with items from Home Depot. He bought a fiberglass sink, a cheap faucet, and a shutoff valve, and assembled them in his driveway. After installing the shutoff valve at the mouth of the faucet's spout, he drilled a hole in the neck of the spout where water could exit as a water fountain. He connected the faucet to a garden hose and turned the water on, and then rotated the shutoff valve to cut off the downward flow of water. Voila! Water came out of the hole he drilled in the top like a water fountain!

With a working proof of concept, he kept going. He needed a design, so he found an engineer with CAD modeling and fluid dynamics background through Elance (now called Upwork) in Thailand. Steve worked with him to create the first engineered CAD model design. He wanted to protect this design, so he decided to patent it. But local patent attorneys were far too expensive, so he again turned to Elance, and found an attorney in India that worked with the US Patent Office (USPTO). They developed both a Utility Patent and a Design patent and submitted both. A year later, the USPTO approved his first Design Patent, and he took that and the CAD model and applied for a startup competition called Get Started Hampton Roads that had cash prizes, hoping to win and use the winnings to fund further efforts. He ended up sweeping the competition, winning both the Judges Favorite which paid $10k in cash and prizes ($5k cash, $5k video services from Cox), and Audience favorite for a $250 Amex gift card. Over the next few years, he continued entering startup competitions to help fund his efforts and ended up winning over $80,000 in cash and services.

"Cherylynn, the Director of the Veteran Business Outreach Center (VBOC) at Old Dominion University (ODU), and I met when Nasoni won the inaugural ODU 757 Pitch Competition. Cherylynn was there representing VBOC and provided input to the judges. We talked about how I came from a military family, and she offered to help however she could. In addition to providing insight and connections to people that have helped Nasoni along the way, she introduced me to her boss Ray Milano, and Ray took the time in a follow-up meeting to share with Nasoni a number of programs, organizations and contacts for us to follow up with. VBOC has been a good resource for us." -Steve Waddell

After 4 years of development and a round of pilot user testing, the future of faucets has arrived. Nasoni's revolutionary, award-winning fountain faucets have passed IAPMO's rigorous certification process, achieving 6 GREEN related certifications along the way. With Nasoni's patented Dynamic Fountain Flow (DFF) technology, Nasoni has designed a lifestyle solution that makes daily lives easier, is ADA compliant, and simultaneously saves water.

Nasoni's award-winning, patented fountain faucets save a tremendous amount of water - they are 88% more efficient than a standard 2.2gpm faucet when used in fountain mode. This is due to the unique fountain feature, which has a built-in pressure regulator to prevent water from overshooting the sink and restricts the fountain flow to .26gpm. Traditionally, the US Environmental Protection Agency reduced the downward flow of faucets to 1.5gpm, and faucets that meet this requirement are labeled Water Sense. Given the draughts in California, the California Energy Commission (CEC) further reduced that limit and requires faucets sold in California meet their more restrictive 1.2gpm flow rate. Attempts to reduce the flow further have met resistance because flow rates below that make it harder to wash hands, so to date, it's the lowest consumer level flow rate.

Nasoni has learned from their pilot user study that while having a downward flow rate of 1.2gpm is fine for washing hands, it is overkill for a fountain flow rate, and a considerable reduction is needed. Nasoni fountain faucets have a .26 gpm flow rate, which is a 78% savings over CEC compliant faucets, and is perfect for all other functions, such as: getting a drink of water, rinsing after brushing teeth, taking pills or vitamins, rinsing makeup remover before bed without splashing water, rinsing shaving cream, serving as the perfect home eyewash station, and giving hair a light rinse. What this means is, users save water and don't realize the lower flow rate, a win-win! In addition, Nasoni learned that the fountain feature benefits those with chronic health conditions such as MS, Parkinson's, vertigo, bad discs in their back, etc. Nasoni has also developed an under-sink water filter, made in the US, for those who want to ensure the best experience.

Another interesting fact is Steve knew that Nasoni fountain faucets were cleaner to drink from than the glass that sits next to the bathroom sink and never gets washed when both were exposed to the aerosol effect from the toilet. But he had no scientific proof, so he was unable to make any legitimate claims. In late 2018, he was introduced to Anna Jeng, Sc.D., Professor and Graduate Program Director, School of Community and Environmental Health, Old Dominion University (ODU) College of Health Sciences. And in 2019, Ms. Jeng and two of her graduate students conducted a scientific study in a controlled environment at ODU, and the results proved the use of the fountain feature of the fountain faucet is much safer than the use of the non-disposable cup when both are exposed to the aerosol effect. The title of the report is "Assessment of Airborne Microbial Safety of Drinking Water from Nasoni Fountain Faucet", and the results were published in the Spring 2020 Virginia Journal of Public Health.

Because of the water savings and the health and wellness benefits noted above, Fast Company recognized Nasoni fountain faucets as a 2020 World Changing Idea finalist in the Consumer Product Category, and an Honorable Mention in the Health and Wellness category. Nasoni's fountain faucets also won the Good Design Award from the Chicago Athenaeum Museum of Architecture and Design in December 2019. And in 2018, Nasoni's first production prototypes won the Best of the Kitchen and Bath Industry Show (KBIS) People's Choice Award.

To bring Nasoni to market, Nasoni's the initial strategy was to use Manufacturer Representatives in key states as the sales force. Using Manufacturer's Reps would provide Nasoni with many of the benefits of having a satellite office in each of their locations-including knowledge of local markets and rapid access to large accounts--without Nasoni incurring large fixed costs. With Reps, sales costs are always a fixed percentage of sales. So Nasoni onboarded Manufacturer Representatives in California, Texas, Virginia/Maryland, and Florida. Each of them was sent Nasoni fountain faucets and Nasoni under sink filters on consignment early in 2020, but soon after that the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the country and basically stopped sales efforts and we had no more in-person meetings. To overcome that challenge, Steve and Nasoni's board decided it made sense to pivot and add an e-commerce model. After learning that Amazon has displaced Google as the number 1 search engine for products, he studied the options, made a few inquiries, and was asked to join the Amazon Launchpad program where he was able to create an entire Nasoni storefront on Amazon (www.amazon.com/nasoni). Given the adverse impact COVID-19 has had on the company, he also applied for and was approved for the SBA's PPP program, of which he was awarded the requested funding.

"Steve has an incredible ability to find, vet, and engage talent from all around the world to help in important areas at critical times. Sometimes this is at no cost and other times, very low cost. This skill is very important for an early stage company where every single dollar counts. In fact, in my 45-year experience, he is the best I've ever seen." -Dave Scouler, Nasoni's Business Relationship Manager

The first business-to-business (B2B) sale for Nasoni recently happened this month with a revitalization project in the city of Suffolk VA. Echelon Resources, Inc. is a historic property redevelopment team specializing in community revitalization projects, and they are renovating one of Suffolk's historical buildings into a set of 58 luxury apartments. The project is called Peanut Crossing, and each of the units will have Nasoni fountain faucets installed. This will provide Nasoni with a new past performance, and a large number of new customers who will get to showcase their new fountain faucets to their guests.

We asked Steve to share his top three lessons learned and any advice he has for other veterans who want to start their own business:

  1. First: If you don't have the money needed to fund your idea, try entering startup competitions. Doing so will serve two purposes: 1. Winning will help to validate that your idea may have "legs", and 2: The cash prizes can be substantial. But recognize some don't pay out immediately, so you may need to be creative. For example, when I won $50k on Steve Harvey's FUNDERDOME, I did not get paid until a year later. However, I was able to get a credit card for $50k, use it the entire year to develop engineered designs and the first production prototypes of our faucets, and then pay it off when the check came in December, just before the end of the year.
  2. Second: Seek help everywhere you can, you'll be surprised at how many resources out there that are free and can help. We have faucets in our warehouse and ready for sale, and since we are looking for some new creative marketing ideas, I approached SCORE (Service Core of Retired Executives), and was connected to two ladies in other states who retired from the building materials industry and are willing to help mentor us. Keep in mind SCORE reps don't have to be local either. VBOC is another example of a good resource.
  3. Third: There are many resources available today that enable the world to become a smaller place. I have worked with people from all over the world through tools like FIVERR, Elance (now Upwork), Freelancer.com, and 99Designs. The key to success on any of those is to look for those freelancers who have the very highest customer review ratings first (5 stars), and then read their reviews. Through that process, I have found some exceptional people from places like Bangladesh, Barbados, Bulgaria, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Manilla, Nepal, Pakistan, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Ukraine, Venezuela, and more. And they've all been great to work with.

"Steve is the epitome of a true entrepreneur. He never fails to amaze me with his unwavering passion and down-right determination and grit to succeed; an excellent example of that, is how he was able to pivot his business model during COVID-19 and go from selling directly through manufacture representatives one day; and then the next day he was selling his innovative faucets through his new store front on Amazon and joining the Amazon Launchpad!" -Cherylynn Sagester

Nasoni's five-year goal is to generate awareness and use and make a splash in the bathroom faucet market. They are in a David vs Goliath situation, with Moen, Delta and Kohler as Goliath. But rather than compete in their space, their goal is to create a new market called Fountain Faucets and become category king of this new category of faucets. Just like the word "Jacuzzi" being synonymous for whirlpool tubs, their goal is for Nasoni to be synonymous with the term fountain faucets. Nasoni's ten-year goal is to find a scaling partner who can help them scale globally, bringing the benefits of their patented, award-winning fountain faucets to the world.

Website: www.nasoni.com
Amazon store: www.amazon.com/nasoni
Facebook: www.facebook.com/nasoniff
Instagram: www.instagram.com/nasoniff
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/company/10014679