“I should have started my own business years ago,” said Mike Raymond (’07), a mechanical engineering alum who spent more than a decade in management consulting and corporate development before starting Color Clean Soap earlier this year. “I had a great grasp of the engineering piece, but I suppose I always thought I needed more experience for the business aspect.”
As it turns out, Raymond was wrong. As someone who already had an inkling about entrepreneurship, Raymond recently launched a successful soap company that helps kids wash their hands more thoroughly amidst a global pandemic. For now, the soap comes in red, blue and green, and children must keep on scrubbing under the tap in order for all the color to wash off.
The ingenious idea came to him after watching his own 8-year-old daughter, Lily, and 3-year-old son, Teddy, fall short of a thorough hand-washing. Concern for proper hygiene and safety inspired Raymond to start looking for a solution.
Raymond admits that his mind is always “on” for new ideas. Years ago, he and two friends started an app similar to Grub Hub, the popular food-delivery service. However, it was the late 2000s, and the financing, timing and market demand just weren’t matching their effort. With a child on the way, Raymond made the tough decision to go back to management consulting.
Ironically, Raymond found his calling in the wake of a global health crisis. Stuck at home, his brain started whizzing with new ideas. As he watched his kids half-heartedly wash their hands, he remembered seeing signs in offices and restaurants reminding everyone to wash their hands for at least 20 seconds. Raymond was amazed that something so seemingly simple was actually a difficult habit for even grown-ups to learn.
After many failed attempts and dyed-blue hands, he finally arrived at his patent-pending solution.
Observing Lily and Teddy, yet again, distractedly wash their hands after they worked on an art project, the root of the problem clicked for Raymond — normal soap provided no visual feedback. This realization led him down the path to find a solution. Over the next five months, Raymond researched and experimented with various colorants trying to find a non-staining, non-toxic and environmentally safe formulation. After many failed attempts and dyed-blue hands, he finally arrived at his patent-pending solution, which uses FDA-approved dyes in a novel way to create a non-staining, high color-load formula.
“I just wanted to make sure the formula was safe. I did a lot of searching and calling companies, and seeing what options were available,” Raymond said. “The research actually reminded me of my college days at UCLA. I really think the confidence to research and simply keep on moving forward is largely due to my engineering background.”
Raymond recalls that while at UCLA, he and his friend were co-leads on the first competitive SuperMileage team – an experience that helped shape his future outlook. “The fact that we established that team, built cars and raced definitely helped boost my confidence to simply keep on pushing through obstacles.”
As soon as Color Clean Soap launched in early August, orders began flying out the door. The company sold out of the soap in just three days.
“My Shopify web cart sends alerts to my phone every time a purchase is made. I had ‘ka-chings!’ ringing on my phone nonstop and I finally just had to turn off my phone,” he said, admitting that it was an awesome yet stressful feeling.
“Thankfully, I’ve had my wife, Laurie, by my side through all this. I can’t thank her enough for being a true partner in every sense of the word. She’s great with social media and she knows where my blind spots are. It’s been a team effort all the way.”
After Color Clean Soap’s resounding debut in the market, Raymond is now fully immersed in running the business side of things. “Now my focus is on scaling our operations to be able to meet the resounding demand that we are seeing. We would like to be in physical retail in the next nine months and are aggressively addressing supply chain obstacles generated by the pandemic. We are very excited for the future of Color Clean Soap.”
When asked what advice he would give to Bruin engineers interested in entrepreneurship, this is what Raymond had to say: “You will never know everything you need to know going into it; at some point, you just need to take that leap of faith and start. Bruin engineers are very smart people who know how to solve problems. The key is to just stay committed to making something work and having the confidence to know that you will find solutions to the inevitable problems that come up. I also highly recommend working with a professional coach. Great coaches will challenge your thinking and help level the inevitable ups and downs associated with starting a company.”
By UCLA Samueli Newsroom