"I've never liked bathroom odor."
Suzy Batiz sits on a toilet displayed in the middle of an office festooned with feminine pastels. She is wearing a sea-foam green dress, suede boots, with flowing blonde hair, perfect makeup and tasteful jewelry. "Let's just get rid of poop odor," she continues, "and then we can really solve the world's problems." (Tweet This)
Getting rid of "poop odor" has become Batiz's obsession. It led her to create Poo-Pourri, an oil-based spray you put on the surface of toilet water before you go. "The oil creates a layer, and whenever the poo goes in, it actually encapsulates it, it sort of 'wraps' the odor."
Since 2007, 17 million bottles of Poo-Pourri have sold. Annual sales now top $30 million. "We actually pride ourselves on being 'Number 2,'" Batiz said.
Never has success smelled so sweet.
That said, Batiz's journey toward what she calls "global poo domination" has had plenty of bad moments.
"I grew up without a lot of money, so what happened is I made things," the Texas mother of three said. First, Batiz painted clothes and sold them out of her car. At age 17, she created denim covered pumps. Guess asked her to come to New York, but she chickened out after her mother convinced her that "they're going to chew you up and spit you out." By 19, Batiz owned a bridal salon. That venture proved costly. "I went bankrupt by the time I was 20." She would declare bankruptcy a second time after trying to start a website in 2000 matching recruiters with potential employees based on corporate culture. "I was just 15 years too soon."
Batiz called the second bankruptcy "the biggest blessing of my life," because it forced her to downsize and focus. "You know, you're always going to be afraid," she said, "but what happens is you keep getting up in the morning, showing up for work, because there's a passion within you."
Finally, her brother-in-law talked to her about a crazy idea. Could she come up with a better way to trap and remove bathroom odors? He knew Batiz liked working with aromatic oils, and the idea of an oil spray was born. Testing began. "My best friends and family would come over, and they would say, 'I've got to go to the bathroom,' and I would say, 'What are you doing? What are you going to do in there?'"
No one had to do more testing than Batiz's husband, Hector. One day, after nine months of trial and error, he walked out of the bathroom and declared, "We are going to be millionaires!"
Batiz began giving the spray to friends, who began telling other friends about it. In 2007, she and Hector took $25,000 of their own money to begin manufacturing Poo-Pourri. She started selling it in small stores. Other stores started calling.
Finally, after six years of growing slowly, Poo-Pourri posted a hilarious online ad in 2013. The cheeky commercial stars a proper young woman with an English accent sitting on a toilet. "You would not believe the mother lode I just dropped," she says with a grin. The ad has been viewed over 37 million times. (Side note — Batiz said only four actresses would audition for the commercial, before she chose Bethany Woodruff for the role).
Poo-Pourri had now gone viral, and suddenly the company had $4 million in back orders. Just as suddenly, their manufacturer announced sprayers couldn't be shipped for 16 weeks.
"It was horrendous." Batiz said. Poo-Pourri got thousands of emails from customers. No one at the sprayer company would help expedite her order. "I ended up going on LinkedIn, and I emailed the CEO," she said. "I called him and I said, 'I'm going to be on the first flight in the morning. I'm going to camp out in 48 hours, and I'm going to sit in your office, because I want you to tell me eye-to-eye that you can't help my company, because I'm going under.'" She got a response the next day. "I was in the American Airlines lounge, and his VP of global sales called me and said, 'Don't hop on a plane, we're going to help you.'"
These days Poo-Pourri is sold in 20,000 retail outlets. In addition to traditional sprays like 'Original Citrus,' other lines include "Trap-a-Crap" (the name Hector Batiz originally wanted to give the company), and a new spray called "Ship Happens," with a tropical coconut scent. Batiz said the company has remained debt free, and she has intentionally avoided taking money from potential investors, perhaps a lesson learned after bridal shop bankruptcy — "that didn't go well."
And even though she's made a fortune creating a bathroom spray, Batiz sees this as part of a much bigger mission. "I believe that when something is born of pure passion, it has a living dynamic energy within itself," she said. "Poo-Pourri was already alive."
Next, she wants to make over the entire bathroom industry: toilets, water, toilet paper. "I don't want to just sell toilet paper, because there's a lot of people that sell toilet paper, and I want to sell toilet paper that actually disrupts the toilet paper market," she said, before adding, "Do we even need toilet paper?" What could possibly replace toilet paper?? Batiz refuses to tip her hand. She's still thinking. "We have a motto: We don't do good, we do great."