St. George’s Foam Shield: The Backstory on Backsplash

As Ben Westrick, founder and president of Servant Products and manufacturer of St. George’s Foam Shield would wholeheartedly agree, the topic of using portable toilets may not be one for polite dinner conversation, but it is sometimes an unavoidable fact of life.

“Several years ago, just after graduating from high school,” notes the Fort Wayne, Indiana native, “I worked in construction and industrial sales. My job took me to a rural area in Greensburg, Indiana, where there were no public water, sewer, or even private septic systems. The construction workers and I had to use the on-site portable toilets daily for a year,” says Westrick. “We all joked about acquiring blue-tinted backsides. In hindsight, however, the unhealthy implications of this latrine backsplash were really not that humorous.”

The Proverbial Light Bulb Moment
At some point in time we have all needed to use a portable toilet—whether at a work-related commercial or industrial site, military installation, sports events or outdoor festival. According to Westrick, although some companies have done a great job of upgrading their portable facilities over the years, most of the improvements have been purely cosmetic. Some companies paint or manufacture their units in cheerful colors, dye the liquid in the bowls, and offer sinks and hand sanitizers. But, until St. George’s Foam Shield, the Portable Restroom Operators, or PROs, have had no solution to address the unpleasant sights, odors, insect infestations and basic sanitation issues of the waste itself.

“One day, while doing dishes in my kitchen sink a light bulb went off in my head as I realized that some of the lighter-weight items I was washing sank and they were not floating back above the foam,” notes Westrick. “Even when I dropped items from a higher point, they did not generate any splash.”

It’s All About the Alchemy
Westrick soon realized that while his idea was unique and the concept was sound, years of research, development and hard work would be ahead of him before he could put his idea into practice. “At the heart of the challenge was finding a method of formulating a persistent aqueous foam that would have a reasonable shelf-life, that would repair itself when punctured to eliminate odors, and yet still be biodegradable,” says Westrick. “I spent countless hours mixing chemicals to find that perfect combination and not having much success until I researched patents applied for and granted, for similar foams and found one that had expired in 2000. I called the chemist/inventor who was an expert in aqueous foams and found that while his formula was targeted for use in landfills, I was confident it could be modified for use in portable toilets.”

While Westrick readily admits that he did not actually formulate his product, it is to his credit that he found a way to enhance the formula and apply its use to a different industry. By meeting with regional PROs, and getting valuable feedback, he learned that pleasing colors and scents are key factors that influence consumers in a positive way. But, this piece was only a small part of the portable potty puzzle and $35,000 of Westrick’s own money later, he realized he still needed additional time and financial resources to create a system for delivery of his product.

Successful Solution
Enter Dave Maier, design engineer at Odin Foam in Oregon. Maier worked for a company that manufactured pump-driven firefighting equipment, and Westrick says he was fortunate to have found them, “Dave and his colleagues designed and built a 12-volt battery-operated pump that combines our basic foam fluid with the necessary air compression at a volume to produce the needed foam density.” He goes on to say, “They were very supportive of my vision from the beginning of our relationship and I will always be grateful for this alliance. The Odin team’s faith in me saved years of R & D time and money.”

Westrick’s successful foam formulation coupled with the new modified pump, enabled him to launch St. George’s Foam Shield at the Pumper & Cleaner Environmental Expo in Louisville, Kentucky in March 2011. “The booth was constantly busy as my six assistants and I demonstrated the benefits of the foam shield. I actually acquired my first three customers there.”

The PROs Bowl
St. George’s Foam benefits for the PROs include a two-year shelf life, 90% coverage of unsightly waste material in the portable unit bowls, quicker waste removal improving cycle times, and is available in a variety of colors and scents. The product’s expansion ratio is one gallon of to-be-foamed liquid equals 15 gallons of foam making it a lighter product to transport and using less fuel to do so. Westrick hopes someday to acquire an eco-friendly label for his product.

The St. George’s Foam Shield exclusive compressed air foam system (CAFS) equipment package includes a Brain Box, Honda/Rolair compressor, 20-gallon reservoir tank, discharge hose, suction hose and application wand. Westrick is proud to note “Our Brain Box is a “Made in America” product, as is the Rolair part of the compressor, I buy my chemicals from American companies, and the assembly labor is all done here. I definitely plan to utilize as many USA supplies and equipment as possible, incorporating the best because I want the best for my customers.”

And, as orders for the equipment package and foam continue to pour in, Westrick’s next goal is to add personnel to increase production, and reduce transportation costs by establishing his own strategically placed storage units and shipping hubs across the country. “When I can keep costs down for the PROs by eliminating third party distributors they will be able to generate extra income and get a healthy mark-up, as well as offering the best product available,” says Westrick. “I also plan to be an exhibitor again this coming year at the 2012 Pumper & Cleaner Environmental Expo in Indianapolis.”

Will Effluence Result in Affluence?
Regarding the future of the portable toilet industry and marketing St. George’s Foam Shield in a challenging economy, Westrick, a devout Catholic, says that his faith gave him the courage to pursue this idea from its inception, and continues to provide him with the drive and optimism needed to succeed. “Rather than dwelling on all the negative economic news, I choose to focus on my desire to manufacture an environmentally friendly product that has the potential to increase business for, and positively impact, the lives of my commercial customers, as well as upgrade the portable latrine experience for (with no pun intended) the end user.”

For more information about St. George’s Foam Shield, please call 1-877-644-FOAM (3626), or visit www.stgfoam.com. For a video demonstration of the product log on to http://stgfoam.com/Foam.html

Story by Daurelle Golden Harris

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