Rob Poleki, former Bannock County politician and inventor of Washie, a smart toilet seat, is negotiating deals that will put his product in the restrooms of multiple NBA arenas across the west.
Poleki has been steadily growing Washie since 2018. His toilet seat technology, which dispenses soap onto the seat for bathroom-goers to clean it before they sit, can be seen in the Pocatello Regional Airport, the Brigham Young University Marriott Center in Utah, Boise Centre, and is continuing to expand to a variety of venues around the region.
Now, with negotiations in the works and some toilet seats installed, Washie is expected to be in at least three NBA arenas in the west in the near future.
Poleki said he can’t disclose in which NBA arenas his toilet seats will be because of contractual agreements, but he said the facilities have agreed to try out the product and schedule some installations this year.
The NBA arena deals are huge for Poleki’s company. The exposure that that market promises to give Washie will help propel Poleki’s entrepreneurial dreams forward while also giving the world a cleaner bathroom experience.
Poleki attributes his success in the toilet seat industry to his and his co-founder Dane Simmons Jr.’s hustle, as well as to the COVID-19 pandemic that has brought attention to and driven a need for cleaner public spaces.
“In today’s world with the pandemic, facilities are trying to do their best to have cleaner restrooms and update their facilities,” Poleki said. “Our product has helped customers and employees as well to come back to public spaces and feel comfortable using a public restroom.”
As for how the Washie founder, who went to Idaho State University and lived in Pocatello for 15 years, secured a meeting with NBA facilities representatives, Poleki said he and Simmons have done a lot of networking.
“We have gone to events and networked, making sure that people know about our story, and really a lot of people in high places are willing to help if you call them,” he said. “We’ve done cold calls and we’ve knocked on people’s doors until we got an answer. We’ve just really had that never-quit mentality and just gone after it, doing anything and everything we can.”
Poleki acknowledged the humor that can be found in his and Simmons’ walking into an important business meeting with a toilet seat.
“We’re walking into an office space with a toilet seat, and that is the oddest thing that you could ever imagine and the funniest thing you can imagine, but Dane and myself, we make jokes and just make it a light conversation because we’re talking about toilet seats,” he said. “Then, we win them over.”
Poleki has come a long way from when he was cut as a prospective contestant on ABC’s popular show “Shark Tank” in 2018. Despite his defeat in the entrepreneurial investment showbusiness arena, Poleki left his job as Bannock County’s clerk in 2019 to give Washie 100 percent of his time.
Since then, Washie has expanded into new markets across the west and into parts of Canada — and Poleki said he has no plans to let off the gas.
“The future looks bright for Washie,” he said. “We have seen so many people taking selfies with our toilet seat in event centers, arenas and hospitals, and it makes you think, ‘Who would have the guts to take a selfie with a toilet seat and post it on social media?’ But that’s how I know our product is making a huge impact.
“My mindset is just always can’t stop, won’t stop because there’s no plan B for me, and we’re definitely going to keep getting our product out there.”