Inspiration can come at the strangest places. For Jason Foster, it was standing at the ironing board.
The inventor of the Replenish bottle has spent the last seven years — including fulltime the last five years — working toward the success of the refillable plastic bottle system that he believes is on the cusp of large scale success.
He only has to point to the world's largest retailer and one of the world's largest plastics packaging companies as proof.
Foster, you see, is on a mission. A mission that includes an environmental message. He wants his Replenish Refill System, where pods of concentrated soaps and cleaners attach to the bottom of refillable bottles, to become a staple in American households.
Just add water, as they say.
While the inspiration for the bottle was instantaneous, the design and engineering was not.
It's a good thing, Foster said, he didn't realize the challenges he would face.
“I didn't know anything about blow molding. I didn't know anything about the physical realities to this little simple design innovation that I saw in my mind, what I would come up against over the next three or four years,” he remembered.
But after years spent working at his family's garden center and more years working in stock research, Foster had a combination business and analytical skills needed to not let the idea simply float away.
“It helped me because I understood being what an entrepreneur was all about. I think I understood intuitively you've got to work as hard as you can,” he said. “From the research angle, you've got to quickly look at a lot of data and find out there is a need.”
Foster's proposition is based on a simple premise: why spend all that time and money transporting soaps and cleaners that are mostly made of water? Using a refillable bottle with concentrate-filled, detachable pods on the bottom makes perfect sense to him.
Concentrate is squeezed into the bottle using a measuring cup built into the container.
While inspiration struck him while using ironing spray, Foster initially was convinced he simply had to find someone else who had already thought of the refillable concept and buy that product. But, as he researched, he found out there wasn't a similar product on the market.
“I saw water as a waste, an opportunity,” he said. “I just did not see that container that existed in the world. I was, fortunately, very naive. I knew nothing about manufacturing, thank God.”
The years that followed saw Replenish working with a small manufacturer to assemble the bottles by hand due to the intricate nature of how the concentrate is attached and delivered into the bottle.