Most bar restrooms are dewy, awkward environments perfumed by the scent of urinal cakes and stale beer. This is to be expected – it’s called “character.” But one unforgivable mistake of most porcelain chambers is the lack of a place to rest the beer or drink that’s probably in your hand. Because this injustice just can’t stand, man, entrepreneur, and frustrated urinal user Matt Williams invented the LavCup, a bathroom shelf that doubles as advertising space. The simple idea is so successful, his company sells $2 million worth of units every year.
A lot of thought gets done in the bathroom and Williams’ million-dollar idea popped into his head during a night out drinking in 2008 when he was a college student at Villanova University. The impetus was that, after he perched his beer awkwardly on the urinal rim, Williams witnessed a drop of water fall from the toilet valve drip into his beer. As he used the urinal, he also noticed that he’d been reading a folded up newspaper tucked between the urinal handle and the wall.
“Everyone in line is carrying beer, the women are carrying purses walking in,” Williams noted in an interview with CNBC. “I’m like, ‘This is crazy. Why isn’t there a functional piece in the bathroom?'” Williams’ mind began to race.
Williams spent five years and $65,000 developing The LavCup, a small shelf with a rubber mat that serves as a place for people to put down drinks, purses, and cell phones while they use bar bathrooms. Attached to each LavCup — and this is where the money really comes in — is a tiny locked slot where companies can place small square advertisements. The shelves themselves are completely free; LavCup gives them away and sells the advertising space, splitting the profits with the venues who put them in their bathrooms.
After some hard work, several maxed out credit cards, and a chance encounter with Peter McLoughlin, president of the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks, Williams landed his first big order of 1,200 about two weeks later.
Williams who told CNBC that he’s a lover of simple, low-tech, but really practical ideas and at the end of the day, he believes that there are still “so many untapped spaces for advertising.” He’s since expanded his means of selling creative advertising space to fortune cookies. Currently, he sends about 100 million cookies a month to at least 10,000 Chinese restaurants and sells ad space on the back of the fortunes. So the next time you’re in a bar or stadium on a rare day off and you can set your glass down without worry of that dewy toilet water infiltrating your IPA, thank Williams.