The bathrooms of college students can be downright gross.
Toothpaste lines the bowl of the sink, the trashcan overflows and the toilet paper roll is notoriously empty.
But, at the very least, Miami University sophomore Seif Boulos can fix that last problem.
Boulos, a finance major with an entrepreneurship minor, started his own business this past November called Bidet in the USA, where he sells both attachable and portable bidets.
Boulos was born and raised in Cairo, Egypt but has moved back and forth between Cairo and Mason, Ohio several times.
Growing up in a transcontinental way, Boulos grew accustomed to certain ways and aspects of life that aren’t frequently replicated in the United States.
For example: the bidet.
Bidets are used as an alternative and in addition to toilet paper, using water to help clean one’s nether regions after the bathroom deed is done.
Where Boulos is from, a bidet can be found in every household on the block.
In America? Not likely.
But Boulos believes that bidets are preferable to toilet paper in several different categories including for hygienic, medical, environmental and accessibility reasons.
Boulos has always known he’s wanted to start a business and came to Miami because of the Farmer School of Business’s reputation. He didn’t think he’d start any projects until his late 20s, but was always jotting down ideas when they came to him.
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One day, he was considering the benefits of bidets and questioning why they were so unpopular in America.
“I thought if someone just communicated it in the right way, [bidets] could gain popularity,” he said. “I just got really excited and I was like, ‘Okay, I’m just going to do it.’”
Boulos got to work by utilizing the skills he learned in marketing and accounting classes and committing every second of his free time to kick-starting his business.
He started by researching the current bidet market, typing up his own 15-page business plan and creating a strategy. Then, he found a manufacturer and started communicating with them.
A month flew by, and Boulos found himself spending upward of 30 hours on Bidet in the USA every week, completely obsessed with the vision of a thriving business.
Now that the beginning legwork is done, however, it’s become closer to 10 or 20 hours.
“If I focus too much on making sure that I grow the business, it's a big sacrifice on my grades and effort in class,” he said.
After trying countless marketing methods, including going door to door with his sales pitch, social media and flyers, Boulos realized that the Miami and Oxford communities may not have been the most profitable populations to target.
“If a person is extremely not accustomed to [bidets], I think it’s a lot harder to convince them to buy it than I initially thought it would be,” he said.
He’s shifted his focus by selling to individuals who are already familiar with and use bidets frequently, like international students, but is more than happy to sell to people who are just curious.
Jack Watson, sophomore accounting major, met Boulos in a management and leadership class. While working on a group project, Boulos pitched his product to Watson. The Buffalo, New York native had never used a bidet before.
“We were more intrigued than anything,” Watson said. “Everyone wants to try it when they come over.”
Boulos has had to modify his marketing techniques to fit his circumstances. It’s been a long process of trial and error.
“When I look at social media marketing, sometimes the amount of money I have to put into the marketing doesn’t always justify the amount of profit,” he said.
For Boulos, this is a learning experience, and much of his time is spent reading books on entrepreneurship to help boost his knowledge. The book “The $100 Startup” by Chris Guillebeau was one of the motivations for his venture.
But the big inspiration wasn’t a book or a famous businessperson. In fact, it had nothing to do with entrepreneurship at all.
In May of last year, five months before Bidet in the USA came to fruition, Boulos ran Cincinnati Ohio’s Flying Pig Marathon.
“It just opened up a lot of possibilities for me psychologically,” he said. “I was really setting myself back by not thinking I could do certain things.”
Now, four months after starting the business, Boulos has reconsidered his priorities.
“The thought process [now] is more that I [just] really enjoy working on this,” Boulos said. “I think there’s potential, but I shouldn’t worry about the results as much as I [should] just focus on the process.”