VENTURES AFRICA – 2013 is the United Nations International Year of Water Cooperation. To mark this year’s water celebration, attention will be placed on the importance of freshwater and sustainable management of freshwater resources.
Last year, I did a feature on Ludwick Marishane, the CEO of Headboy Industries. Ludwick is the brain behind DryBath™, the world’s first and only bath-substituting skin gel, which he invented in 2008 while he was still an undergraduate. His invention won him the Global Student Entrepreneurship Award (GSEA) at the Global Entrepreneur Week (GEW) for two consecutive years (2010 and 2011). To mark this year’s event; Marishane’s company, DryBath™, is organising a no-bath weekend to encourage water management (saving).
In this interview, Ludwick talks about his company role in marking the international year of water cooperation, the essence of saving water in this modern age, his business challenges, lesson learned, and his future plans.
VA: Please tell us about yourself (aside being the CEO of Headboy Industries) – your background, hobby, fond memories?
LM: I’m a recent graduate from the University of Cape Town. I grew up in both rural Limpopo and Johannesburg, so I have experience on both sides of the income-level fence. My hobbies include critically analysing movies, hiking, and reading philosophy and psychology books. My fondest memory was when my baby brother was born. I had been an only child for 17 years, but nothing was more exciting than having him come into my life.
VA: 2013 is the international year of water cooperation, what is your company doing to mark this event?
LM: We were not aware of the theme given to the year, but we had already decided to launch our first DryBath™ No Bathing Weekend in July this year. While developing our campaign, we became aware of the year’s theme and realised the great possibility for synergies.
VA: What is this year’s theme for the project and what is the synergy between it and your plan?
LM: 2013 is the United Nations International Year of Water Cooperation, focusing attention on the importance of freshwater and advocating for the sustainable management of freshwater resources. It also focuses on how the world’s aqua-system is used to benefit humanity in a sustainable manner. We believe DryBath can play an integral part in assisting society to achieve that objective.
VA: You are organising a no-bath weekend from 5 to 7 July which will coincide with the fourth anniversary of the invention of DryBath™ and the celebration of this year’s international World water day; what does your company aim to achieve with this programme and how hygienic is the idea of not bathing?
LM: Our personal goal is to get people to skip 10 million baths this year, but our campaign goal is placed at a modest 1 million baths. We want to make people aware of the wasteful act of unnecessary daily bathing, and we’d also like to bring awareness to the adverse health effects of too much bathing.
If you research the history of bathing, you’ll realise that daily bathing only became prevalent in the 40s as a way to practice good hygiene for those who did heavy physical labour. We have abused that practice and now bathe two or more times a day. This has lead to our skins becoming sensitized by all the purifying chemicals in the water, and that’s why every new skin lotion is always touted to be twice as moisturising as the last. We bathe all the time and try to repair that damage with expensive lotions which we shouldn’t need in the first place. We want companies and communities to get involved with the campaign.
VA: Your goal is to get at least 10-million people to hygienically skip a bath once a week during 2013, why is saving water crucial in this generation?
LM: Some popular research theorises that water-shortages will reach extreme levels from the year 2030, and I believe that “wars” will be fought over water in a similar way to how they have fought over oil. I’m far from a believer in climate change, but the scarcity of water is a very real problem, and it is something that is far removed from the citizen of a developed economy, but can be the difference between life and death for a person at the bottom of the pyramid.
VA: Tell us about your product, DryBath™, and what it does? What is the inspiration behind formulating this product?
LM: DryBath™ is the world’s first and only bath-substituting skin gel. You simply put it on your skin instead of bathing, and it will provide you with a cleansing effect that mimics the effectiveness of bathing. It won’t feel as great as bathing, but it will sure leave you feeling fresh.
I invented the product in high school when a friend didn’t want to bathe. As a teenage boy, I knew I wasn’t a fan of bathing, mainly because I found it tedious sometimes, but also because I liked the smell of my body’s natural pheromones.
VA: How has your growing up in Motetema influenced creating DryBath™?
LM: I moved to Motetema in the 9th grade – a move which gave me great anxiety because I was turning my back on a great Catholic school and the advantaged lifestyle I had with my dad in Johannesburg. In retrospect, the move to Motetema was the most important decision I made at that age, and living there really gave my life purpose by showing me how much change was still needed in the world.
Headboy Industries aim to become Africa’s most innovative conglomerate, making products that improve society, how far has your company come along since it officially began operations in 2008?
We’ve completed the development and commercialisation of DryBath™. We have spent the last two years developing the world’s first entrepreneurship league, we plan to take it live in 2014 and we already have partners in Russia that want to replicate it there. The company is profitable and we expect revenues to triple this year.
VA: Shed some light on the development of the world’s first entrepreneurship league
LM: The entrepreneurship league is going under the name of the “Art of Business Challenge (ABC)”. It is a youth development enterprise that leverages the youth’s interest, advertisers who are dying to reach the 15-24 age-group, and the low entrepreneurial drive within society’s youth. It is going to be teaching youth stuff they can’t learn in a classroom, and we aim to make the process more entertaining for the television spectator than the FIFA World Cup. The league has been under development for 2 years now.
(You may view Marishane’s short presentation of how it works here)
VA: I read somewhere that DryBath™ is manufactured commercially for clients such as hotels, music festival organisers, major global airlines and governments for soldiers in the field but it is not yet available for consumer use; why is this and when will this be made available for consumer use?
LM: We have realised that our team is not passionate about the retail side of business, and we also didn’t have the capital necessary to service the household consumers with the quality we would want them to have. We have started negotiating distribution deals for countries all over the world, and we will be choosing great partners who can sell the product to the retail consumer. Selling to corporate organisations has been our main priority because our value proposition to them allows us to donate sachets to charity.
VA: How have you been able to market a novel product to the public?
LM: People’s general attitude to bathing has been very entertaining to us. Our surveys revealed that almost everyone finds it tedious sometimes, but society’s general attitude is that not-bathing is a taboo thing to do. On average, people already skip bathing once a week, but they feel very guilty about it. DryBath™ allows these people to have a very convenient substitute without the guilt of feeling dirty for not bathing. Our marketing has been very frank and has aimed to make everyone become more accepting, if not enthusiastic, about skipping baths.
VA: What challenge(s) did you face marketing DryBath™/getting the product accepted and how far have you come with these challenges?
LM: We had a great deal of difficulty in designating the product into a category. Being a new health care product, we had to decide if it was a medicine (which would require clinical trials, etc), or if it was a cosmetic. After consulting with the authorities, the final designation was “cosmetic”, and that has really made it simpler for us to distribute the product worldwide. Customers still find it hard to get the concept in their heads, and we have decided to produce marketing videos to help with that, but we have noticed that detractors often change their mind about the product after the concept has lingered in their minds for a week or two.
VA: You have experienced some failures and challenges as a young entrepreneur/innovator before achieving success with the creation of DryBath™. Can you share some of these failures and how has this experience help you in your present business venture?
LM: My journey has been riddled with projects that were too big for me, too resource-intensive, and those which were too early for society. I invented a healthy cigarette in the 10th grade, but realised I didn’t have the resources to take on the tobacco industry. I failed to become South Africa’s biodiesel baron in the 9th grade because I was too young, and I authored a mobile dictionary and magazine supplement which society just wasn’t ready to publish.
However, with each entrepreneurial failure, I learned skills that optimized me for future opportunities. I also think DryBath hasn’t finished its journey yet, and that it may still fail at some point in the near future, but it has taught me business skills that will make my next venture an even bigger success.
VA: You are/were a student social entrepreneur who has combined schooling with entrepreneurship. How practical is this and does your academic discipline play a role in managing your business, Headboy Inc?
LM: I think the best time to get a business off the ground is while you’re still a student, being at university was a great incubation phase for the company and I. I studied a commerce degree, so the learning definitely added substantial value to the business. Being a student entrepreneur also posed a difficult challenge, but I found that the more I worked on the business, the better I did at school because the work ethics translated well between the two.
VA: As a student, how did you get the start-up fund for your product and what advise will you give young entrepreneur in getting start-up funds?
LM: I was rejected by all the venture capital firms, and I had no security to secure a loan from any bank. However, I did enter business plan competitions, and I quickly realised that they were the best way to raise funds for my business. I raised over $50, 000 from competitions, and they also provided valuable media attention, access to potential clients, and validation for the company and product.
VA: You have served as an intern with Goldman Sachs, operate as campus ambassador for Google (among other internship) and you were once the Global Student Entrepreneur of the Year; how far has these internships and accolades help you as a young entrepreneur/innovator?
LM: The Goldman Sachs internship was my first job ever, and it made me realise how much I hated being an employee. It was a great opportunity to be in London during summer, and I got to work with some of the sharpest minds in the world. The work we did gave me insight into securities sales & how I might do an IPO one day. The other internships were in start-ups generally, and they felt more aligned with my way of working. All in all, the internships and awards have added substantially to my network, and I often tell my mentees that an entrepreneurs’ network must be more valuable than their business, otherwise it becomes useless.
VA: What do you think young entrepreneurs should emulate when they are starting their business?
LM: The most important skill you need to cultivate is the ability to teach yourself things very quickly, and to fail very quickly in order to learn. If you work on something you’re truly passionate about and have social support for the work you’re doing, the rest sorts itself out.
VA: What are your future plans for the business?
LM: We plan to launch even more long-term products to the market and change the world one product at a time.
VA: Any word for young entrepreneurs that may/are following in your footsteps?
LM: Do it for the love of power…the power to control your life, the power to change society, and most of all; the power to live your dream. If you don’t feel like pursuing that power, then you’re not working hard enough.