Coming to the public restrooms near you: ads printed on the toilet paper? Bryan Silverman thought the idea was crazy too when he first heard it from his brother, Jordan. Now they’re the startup founders of Star Toilet Paper – winning awards, defying the odds, and probably amassing an almanac of bad puns and anecdotes they never dreamed of learning. Bryan tells us more about pursuing an unexpected calling:
Why did you become an entrepreneur?
A favorite quote of mine is by Jeff Bezos, CEO and Chairman of Amazon. He said, “One of the huge mistakes people make is that they try to force an interest on themselves. You don’t choose your passions; your passions choose you.” I believe that once you have caught the entrepreneurial bug, you carry it along with you and have a constant mindset of an entrepreneur.
What inspired your current startup?
It was my co-founder and brother’s idea, and he came to me with it. At first, I honestly thought he was either joking or crazy. However, we looked into the feasibility of the idea and saw that it was not only possible, but something necessary to bring into the world.
What makes your startup so killer? How is it different from the competition?
It is ads and coupons on toilet paper – we feel we are the essence of what is unique. We bring many different things to the table that help make our product so great – from free toilet paper for venues to an unmatched captive audience, to great mobile capabilities, to awesome coupons right at the fingertips of consumers.
How do you motivate yourself and your team?
We use 2 things as motivation. Because of the unique nature of our concept, we are constantly being told that the idea will not work and is just downright silly. We use these naysayers as motivation and try to prove them wrong every step of the way. Second, we pride ourselves on our deep-seated yearning to disrupt the status quo. Each and every day, we strive to break through the wall that is the status quo and introduce our product into the mass market.
If the Internet didn’t exist, what would you be doing?
Not filling out this interview! I also think that our concept would be very similar. We would still have the ability to print ads and coupons on toilet paper, but without mobile capabilities. It would certainly change some of the benefits of advertising with us, but at the same time, we have a very tangible product that allows for such a captive audience.
What advice do you have for entrepreneurs who are struggling to get their businesses off the ground?
Utilize resources and ask questions. There are so many places and groups in the area (whatever area that may be) that entrepreneurs can tap into to help them. For example, I am a member of DUhatch, the student business incubator on campus here at Duke University. Perhaps the best resource that I have found is other people. Successful entrepreneurs are very willing to talk to those who need help, as they would not be where they are now without help in the past. That being said, be sure to ask questions, and good questions, in order to most effectively tap into the resource that is their knowledge base.
What has been the biggest startup surprise for you (good or bad)? Have you had any incredible /funny / challenging experiences that you can share with us?
I won Entrepreneur Magazine‘s College Entrepreneur of 2012 and was able to go down to Dallas with my brother, sponsored by the UPS Store. While there, it was unbelievably surreal and humbling to give an acceptance speech and have almost 1,000 people looking up to me. One of my favorite / funny moments was after the speech, when people were asking me questions and taking pictures with me and one person came up to me and asked for my autograph! I love being out in public and have learned that the best way to portray yourself is truly as yourself. Do not try to be someone you are not!
How do you handle frustration or disappointment?
We take it in stride. Generally, we try to use anybody who says no to us as our motivation to push us further and further. This allows us to take each no and feel that we are that much closer to hearing yes.
What are the top 3 online tools / websites / devices that you couldn’t live without? (And why?)
- Google Analytics: although looking at the total number of views is important, I enjoy looking at the referrals. It is really cool to see what pages link back to us and is a great way to see where we have been featured.
- Google Alerts: set up alerts for yourself and your competition to see where both of you can be seen online.
- Feedly: this is an amazing tool I like to use to get caught up on the startup world. I do this often when I am going to the bathroom (because everyone needs something to read when they are going about their business). It is a cool way to have all the information in one place.
If you had $1 million and one year off, what would you do? (Other than work on your current startup)
I would love to travel to unusual places. For example, going to Alaska to see the aurora borealis is one of my lifelong dreams. Furthermore, it would be great to travel around Europe and really learn more about myself and whomever I was traveling with.
How do you maintain work / life balance?
Being an entrepreneur in college, I have really had to learn how to manage my time. I am very lucky that my friends and family have taken an interest and enjoy helping me out. It is this reason that I am able to manage my time so well and maintain the balance between work and life. It is also very helpful when your work is something you love!
Who would play you in the movie of your life, and what would be the theme song?
- Justin Timberlake
- Song: Lose Yourself, Eminem
How has being an entrepreneur changed you for the better? How has it enriched your life?
I am much more outgoing. Before, talking to people used to be a chore for me. Now, one of my favorite aspects of owning my own company is being able to talk to all the amazing people that populate the startup world. It is truly fantastic being able to learn so much from so many different people.
What is the tech scene like where you live?
Being near the Triangle is really great. Durham is also a bustling startup scene that I have been able to take advantage of, both the resources and people that are around here.
Where can our readers find you?
How can the KillerStartups community help YOU?
We are looking to spread not only the concept of who we are, but also the essence of who we are. We want to be able to spread our desire to disrupt the status quo and encourage others to do the same.
Finally, what is your biggest accomplishment and how have you gained from it?
Winning Entrepreneur Magazine‘s College Entrepreneur of 2012 and getting to meet Barbara Corcoran is definitely at the top of the list for me. I was revered as a celebrity for those 12 hours that the conference took place, and I was so happy to serve as a source of motivation for other people.
Courtesy of startup founder | Star Toilet Paper