Bright Idea: Water, Water Everywhere

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The sprint from idea to revenue-generating company might be standard operating procedure in the tech realm, but even a mobile-app developer or social-networking site might have trouble keeping up with Alexandra Abraham and her startup, DripCatch Inc.

It began with the idea for DripCatch—a tray to collect water that drains from racks of glasses. Without her invention, water would otherwise wind up on the floors of restaurants and catering kitchens, creating safety and cleanliness problems.

In a couple of years, Abraham got a patent on the design, arranged for tooling from China, set up the company and raised some capital with the help of family members, found a local contract manufacturer—Woodinville’s Cashmere Molding—to produce the trays for less than she could source them from China, talked her way into a meeting with restaurateur Tom Douglas, who not only endorsed the product but also joined the board and encouraged a local commercial kitchen supply company to carry the item, signed a national distribution agreement with another and recruited local hotels and restaurants to test the product (with many of them buying).

Pretty impressive for a company in the staid business of manufacturing—and for a 23-year old who would have finished her degree in business at Seattle University if she hadn’t actually gone out and started a company instead.

“Maybe to the outsider it looks like lightning speed,” Abraham says. “To me, it’s not moving nearly as fast as I would like it.”

That compressed timeline brings Abraham and DripCatch to an inflection point that many businesses take years to reach, if they get there at all: how to make the big jump to a truly national company.

DripCatch is available through a restaurant-equipment distributor, but Abraham notes that outlet’s not enough. “It’s not going to fly off the shelves,” she says. “The rest of the country doesn’t know about us quite yet.”

What DripCatch needs is affiliation with a company that has representatives in every major city calling on restaurants, hotels and institutions like schools and hospitals with large kitchens. “We’ve taken it as far as we can take it without hiring a team of our own or partnering with a bigger firm,” she says.

Abraham is talking to several firms interested in some sort of partnering, licensing or joint-venture arrangement. She expects to continue with the effort to promote DripCatch once that next step is completed, which leaves the question of her unfinished studies up in the air. “I’m hell bent on finishing that degree,” she says. “I just don’t know when that will happen.”