Go ahead, get dirty
Tim White ’99, ’05, a self-described serial entrepreneur, realized after moving to the Duluth area that there weren’t great ways to clean up after getting dirty on the bike trails.
“If you like to have fun in Duluth, you can expect to get dirty,” said White. An avid mountain biker, he was inspired to design a solution to help outdoor enthusiasts like himself scrub up after spending time outside in the elements before getting into cars or going to restaurants.
White is the business development and intellectual property manager for the Natural Resources Research Institute at the University of Minnesota Duluth. He holds a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering and M.S. in Engineering Management from MSOE and spent nearly 20 years in product development at the Kohler Company and other area businesses. His education and professional experience gave him the skills and inspiration to design a “shower-in-a-bag.”
His invention, the Crud Cloth, is a portable soapy washcloth that is activated like an instant ice pack. When it’s time to use it, you hit the package to pop the pod and spread the solution around the cloth. White and his 11- and 13-year-old daughters have been assembling the products at home since late 2018 by vacuum-sealing a dry washcloth and a pod with a liquid mixture of water, soap and essential oils. They hand-made and sold more than 10,000 units in the past two years. A recent order of 14,000 more (to be delivered in two months) warranted moving the operations to a manufacturing facility.
“I feel it’s very important for my daughters to understand what it’s like to be an entrepreneur and hope one day they’ll follow in these footsteps,” White said.
White credits the support he received from faculty at MSOE for giving him the confidence to pursue a somewhat non-traditional path during and after college. “Most of my internships were in sales engineering. This made me a bit of a ‘maverick’ when I began my career. I was always looking to create new opportunities for the companies I worked for,” said White. “For my MSEM, I took every entrepreneurship course Gene Wright and Kimball Nap taught. They got me hooked.”
White offers the following advice for anyone interested in entrepreneurship.
- Don’t focus on the what, focus on the why. People care about the why and what it does for them.
- You can’t learn when you’re doing all the talking. I learned this from my boss at my first job at the Ladish Co. He put my engineering ego in check.
- Don’t assume you’re right. It takes a lot of iterations to get your product or service to be what you want. While Crud Cloth is in its second generation, it’s probably on its 50th iteration.
- Find a group of people you trust who can be your advisory network. You want folks you can bounce ideas off of, and you don’t want to be afraid to seek our help.
One of the biggest factors White believes sets his product apart is that the cloth is washable and can be reused. Unlike using a pre-packaged wet wipe, White said the Crud Cloth can clean a much larger area with a single cloth. It also doesn’t leave behind a residue the way a wipe does.
“It’s like you’re using a wet washcloth in the shower, and a baby wipe can never do that,” he said. The Crud Cloth is sold coast-to-coast, and White is working with a distributor to make them available in big-box stores. Currently, many have been sold at crudcloth.com, as well as in bike stores and yoga studios, and to trade workers who need to clean up on the job. White is also working with nonprofit organizations to make the Crud Cloth available for people facing homelessness or natural disasters, where they may not have access to basic hygiene products.