David Schneider, REM Brands

To be perfectly blunt, children are responsible for some pretty foul odors. When diapers are thrown into the mix, their residual funk can permeate even the tightest tied garbage bags. The Whisper Diaper Pail, developed by REM Brands of Florence, Ky., is the scientific response to stinky babies.

How have sales been since the Whisper Diaper Pail launched on Amazon back in November?
We’ve been very pleased with Whisper Diaper Pail sales over the past 75 days. Each week, we’ve seen a solid gain over the previous one. We feel the sales increases are due to four factors: 1) current diaper pails under-deliver against dirty diaper odors; 2) more moms are hearing about Whisper from recommendations on parenting blogs; 3) satisfied moms are telling their friends; and 4) our switch to Amazon Prime has helped eliminate shipping costs. Knock on wood, but we’ve not yet had one Whisper returned!

Would you explain what type of research and development went into your new product?
Even before we formalized any product designs, we conducted nationwide research with moms with babies using an online platform to measure initial interest in this product and to determine their reactions to the key differentiating features, purchase intent and anticipated pricing. We used their responses to prioritize the consumer needs we now knew the product would have to address to be successfully accepted. With their positive reactions, we plunged forward, first turning our attention to the spray. Although our odor eliminating ODOGard spray technology was developed several years ago, we revised the formula to improve its performance efficacy against dirty diapers in an aerosol product form. We also helped design a special nozzle to concentrate and direct the spray so it evenly coated the interior of the diaper pail and the diapers at the bottom.  We tested the spray against several foul odors and to determine the number of diapers it could handle. Next, we worked with an industrial engineering firm to refine the original diaper pail design and to create several working prototypes over two years. We recruited six local moms with babies to test various Whisper prototypes, and we made numerous iterative changes to the overall design based on their feedback. We challenged these moms to compare the Whisper to their current diaper pails, and to give us the unvarnished truth about Whisper’s ease of use and odor eliminating performance. We followed all their recommendations to make significant changes in the trapdoor, safety-locking knob, inner lid, ease of changing the liner bags and overall durability. You can even hear their real product testing experiences on the Whisper website. We worked with a local design firm to create compelling retail packaging, which was also tested with moms to ensure it differentiated the Whisper from other diaper pails and clearly communicated its many unique features.  

What is the biggest obstacle facing your company?
Staying on top of consumer demand and making the Whisper Diaper Pail easily available at other online and traditional retail outlets over the course of the rest of the year.

According to the product information on Amazon, the Whisper Diaper Pail is "Made in USA and Imported." Is this product assembled in the REM Brands facility in Florence, KY? What components of the product are being imported and from where?
All the technology development, product design, packaging design and consumer testing of the diaper pail was conducted in the USA. The parts of the diaper pail are made in China along with some assembly, and the final assembly is in Athens, Texas. The spray cans are made and filled in Wisconsin. The product formulation in the spray can is manufactured in Florence, Ky.

What advice would you give a student interested in developing his or her own business of a scientific nature?
  • Uncover all the unmet needs in that category.
  • Make sure your business meets one or more of the most significant unmet needs and can deliver a significant difference in performance that the current businesses serving this need can’t.
  • Study the market or category to know the competition’s strengths and where they are most vulnerable.
  • Don’t be afraid to seek help from others and surround yourself with wise, energetic advisors who will challenge and add value to your proposition.
  • Listen carefully to the reactions of people who represent the ultimate customer of your product and adjust your business accordingly.
  • Test until you’re confident of success, then test once again just before any launch.
  • Patent your idea if at all possible and seek guidance from those that have protected their own intellectual property.
  • Be prepared to counter competitive reactions to your new business.
Where do you see the company five years from now in terms of growth?
We envision the Whisper brand will continue to grow over the next few years as we add other products to help new moms with other important needs for their babies like cleaning, laundry and disinfection products.

Is there anything else you would like to say?
Whisper Diaper Pail, our first retail product, has truly energized our company and given us the confidence to continue to innovate and bring other new technologies to consumers and other businesses.

Interview by Sean M. Peters