Don't you hate it when a good beach day goes awry? Whether it's too much sun, unwanted sand in the craw, or a skimpy towel that blows away in the wind, one niggling detail can ruin a perfectly nice afternoon.
Todd Moore, 46, of Albrightsville, Pa., wants beachgoers to know that those days are over, thanks to his invention, the WowTowel. His creation is a huge beach blanket with a hole in the middle for an umbrella, pockets in all four corners for personal belongings (which help weigh it down against the wind), and four pastel colors to match any oceanic tastes.
About 10 years ago, while lounging at the beach in Robert Moses State Park, Moore fought a losing battle against an umbrella and wondered why there wasn't a center aperture to ensure shade all day long. At the time, he was working in the brokerage division at Prudential in New York, so he didn't do anything with the idea. Fast-forward to 2007: The stock market was headed for a crash, Moore's division was shut down, and he decided to step out on his own and revisit his beachcomber's revelation.
He attended a "Be Your Own Boss" seminar, where he met an angel investor who ponied up $20,000 to get WowTowel off the ground. Moore had three basic specifications that he wanted the towel to meet: It had to be large, convenient to carry, and able to keep sand from coming through the middle hole. The WowTowel is more than 50 square feet (big enough for an entire family), weighs only seven pounds, and wraps around the pole to keep it free from sand.
As they say on TV, But wait, there's more! The WowTowel is made of thick terry "loop" cloth like bath towels, so it actually absorbs water when swimmers need to dry off. It's a relatively simple innovation, but the WowTowel represents globalization in action -- Moore purchases the cotton from a U.S. farm and has the towels made in Malaysia.
Moore says the WowTowel is just the beginning of his three-year plan to create a one-stop "awesome beaching experience," which will eventually include his own line of umbrellas. The first run of 500 WowTowels sold for $70; the next generation will be a bit more, but will also feature a double loop and theoretically be twice as plush. For now, the WowTowels are only available on the company's website and from a few vendors such as BeachTowels4U.com, but Moore dreams of the day they will be on the shelves at Bed Bath & Beyond.
Moore is hoping to have a large shipment of WowTowels ready by summer, but needs more funding. He's trying to raise $1 million to do a run of 50,000 (he's in talks with an angel investor) and believes a busy sales season could take WowTowel to the next level. "I think this could be a $100 million company," he says. "There's hardly been any innovation in the beach industry in years, so there's no competition."
The original version of this article appeared on AOL Small Business on 6/2/10.