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Alee Pingol

Since he graduated college in the ‘90s, Aaron Krause had a habit of seeing problems with products. For as long as he can remember, Krause has been creating new inventions in hopes of solving those problems.

Now, holding the title of Shark Tank US’s greatest monetary success, Krause is the founder and CEO of a multi-million-dollar company, Scrub Daddy. But his company was no overnight success story. Krause began this project nearly 30 years ago after graduating college, and much to his parent’s dismay announced that he would be launching his own car washing business.

Despite his humble beginnings, Krause worked his way to the top and grew his small car-washing business into a considerable US-based company, selling sponges and buffing pads. After acquiring $200,000 in funding from Shark Tank investor Lori Greiner, Scrub Daddy gained over $30 million in revenue and $107 million in sales thus far.

But how did he do it? Here’s how Krause turned a rather insignificant idea into a multi-million-dollar business — all starting with a smiley-faced sponge:

Starting a Business Fresh Out of College

In an interview with The Eco Magazine, Krause says, “If you told me 25 years ago that my greatest invention would be a kitchen sponge, I wouldn’t have believed you.”

And neither would’ve his parents. However, in their defense, it’s not every day that a college grad tells his parents that washing cars are his future. But in Krause’s mind, he was going to be the CEO and president of his very own company.

Since he was a child, Krause has enjoyed inventing new products, but this was the first time he turned an invention into something greater. Dissatisfied with the sponges and buffing pads on the market, Krause looked to using new materials and ingredients to polish cars.

After experimenting with urethane foam, Krause started creating new buffing pads, applying his signature smiley face logo to the sponge. “From the moment I tried my new buffing pad, I knew that it was something extraordinary,” says Krause.

Realizing he had created a genius new product; Krause sold his car washing company and channeled his focus to buffing materials. During this time, Krause had also built machinery to produce his unique buffing pads. “My hands were always covered in a layer of oil and grease I couldn’t get rid of — no matter what I used.

To solve his predicament, Krause decided to create something to remove the grease from his hands. He eventually landed on a German company, who developed a cleaning foam product specially for Krause.

“To get a better grip on it, I cut it into a ridged circle with two holes in the middle to clean my fingers. Before you know it, a smiley-faced sponge was staring up at me. That was the true beginning of Scrub Daddy.”

Establishing Scrub Daddy as a Serious Company

Fast-forward about a decade, Krause’s brilliant fancy foam idea was unfortunately shelved, since the demand for the product wasn’t high enough. In 2008, Krause sold his buffing pad business to 3M, a multinational conglomerate corporation, except Scrub Daddy patented products.

Though he no longer had any real need for his products, Krause held onto the sponges until the time had come where they might be needed. A few years later in 2011, that time came. After his wife asked him to clean some of their outdoor furniture, Krause brought out the sponges, dipped them in warm water, and noticed how the sponge immediately became soft.

“They worked so unbelievably well I took one inside to wash the dishes. It was then I realized the stiffeners in the foam changed with the temperature of the water, becoming soft in warm water and hard and scrubby in cold water,” he said in an interview with Smart Company.

Krause then began looking for ways to market his product when he decided to take his business to Shark Tank.

The Most Successful Shark Tank Investment

In a search for funding, Krause began looking at shopping channels on TV. This helped create a reputation for the company. However, it wasn’t enough, and Krause wanted to go bigger. Using his TV experience, Krause applied to appear on ABC’s Shark Tank in 2012 in hopes of securing deals in larger retail stores.

After rejecting an offer from Kevin O’Leary for 50 percent of the company, Krause accepted an offer from Lori Greiner, who guaranteed $200,000 in funding for 20 percent ownership in Scrub Daddy. In October 2012, the episode aired on national television, and the business exploded. So much so, the business was forced to transfer to a larger facility in Folcroft, Pennsylvania.

Since the move, Scrub Daddy has continued to foster growth and expansion, securing partnerships with retailers like Target, Wal-Mart, Bed Bath & Beyond, Home Depot, Kroger, and more. In May 2014, Shark Tank aired an episode entitled “Swimming with Sharks,” where it announced Scrub Daddy as the most successful Shark Tank product to date.

Scrubbing Away the Haters

Today, Scrub Daddy only confined to grow, boasting the title of the third-largest sponge company in the country. But Krause frequently reminisces on the humble beginnings of Scrub Daddy, saying, “I know [3M is] kicking themselves for taking Scrub Daddy out of the deal all those years ago.”

Scrub Daddy currently sells their product in over 60 US in-store and online retailers. Even though the idea may seem rather small, there’s no doubting the company’s insurmountable success. Since its founding, Scrub Daddy has expanded its line of products, featuring mops, pads and erasers, soap dispensers, microfiber towels, and dish wands.

For aspiring entrepreneurs, Krause leaves one piece of advice: “If you have a great idea that you truly believe in—no matter how big or small — the only way it will ever become successful is if you take a chance and act on it.”

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