When I first heard Omar Youssef Al Amerecany’s idea, the one that took first place in the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay business idea competition, I wasn’t convinced that it presented a solution to a problem that needs solving.
I did some research. It turns out that even though I don’t mind doing dishes, there is a high percentage of people who do. Especially millennials.
About a year ago, a survey by Mintel reported that almost 40 percent of those in this age group don’t like doing dishes. Brittney Morgan, a blogger, wrote in a May blog that “doing the dishes is one of the worst chores there is.”
Al Amerecany, who hails from Cairo, Egypt, and graduated from UWGB a few months ago, says his long-term goal is to build a business that will make the world a better place one product at a time. When he heard about the “Big Idea” competition, he was enticed by the prospect of presenting his idea to investors and potential customers. The first step was the hardest.
“First, coming up with an idea is exhausting,” he said. “It is difficult to sit down and think of an idea that not a single person from the 7 billion people alive have thought of. So instead of writing down ideas, I started focusing on my own problems and trying to find a solution to them. That is when I thought of ECO-RL.”
ECO-RL is a recyclable plastic layer that covers the surface of a plate when in use so that the plate doesn’t get dirty.
“After you are done eating, you easily remove the layer and throw it in the recycling bin. It’s that simple, no more washing dishes. To make it clearer, it’s exactly like your phone screen protector but it doesn’t stick. It’s easily added and removed,” Al Amerecany said.
The product might sound like it was easy to develop, but the marketing major spent hours researching the best material for the job. After contacting plastic manufacturers and visiting “every single plastic website anyone could find,” he selected HDPE, a nontoxic, anti-corrosive, flexible and food-safe material.
The only issue with it is that it is nonbiodegradable, and that only 32 percent of HDPE produced is recycled. He is hoping to solve the issue by increasing the percentage that is recycled to at least 50 percent. It continues to be a work in progress and the challenges of writing a business plan and making modifications to the product to improve it has turned out to be an incredible learning experience.
“I never considered myself as an entrepreneur until I got my idea and people loved it," Al Amerecany said. "I believe that something in my brain just ticked after I thought of ECO-RL and I just couldn’t stop thinking of new ideas and dreaming of building my own business and changing the world.”
It has also helped him to define what it means to be an entrepreneur.
“I think I could say that someone is an entrepreneur if he listens more than he speaks, if he believes that the little details are extremely important, if he tries to solve his own problems, if he tries to produce more than consume, if he is ready to risk it all to win, if he never fails but instead, he learns, if he has macro patience and micro speed and finally, if he never stops believing in himself and his ideas no matter what,” he said.
In winning the top prize, Al Amerecany said that the 90-second elevator speech was nerve-wracking because he had a lot to say in a limited amount of time. He emotionally connected with the audience through humor and in solving the problem — washing dishes, and wasted time, effort and money. The response has been great, and he plans to pursue the business.
“I am currently looking for investors and planning on making this idea a reality,” he said. “It will just require some time and patience.”
SCORE volunteer Ryan Kauth, lecturer of entrepreneurship at UW-Green Bay, is the program adviser.
Tina Dettman-Bielefeldt is co-owner of DB Commercial Real Estate in Green Bay and past district director for SCORE, Wisconsin.