A Las Vegas company that specializes in the manufacture of bathroom accessories has designed an innovative product that company executives tout as the most significant advance in water closet technology since the advent of indoor plumbing.
Miracle Seat Co., founded in 1997, has created a vented toilet seat equipped with a vacuum fan that removes offensive odors and airborne particles from the toilet bowl and vents them outdoors before they can escape into the bathroom air.
"It's the biggest revolutionary leap in bathroom technology since the introduction of indoor toilets," said a spokesman for the Miracle Seat Co. "The part you sit on is hollow inside with vents on the bottom. Those vents led to an exhaust duct hidden behind the toilet bowl. That duct leads to an electric fan normally installed in the attic or ceiling. The fan draws a vacuum from the toilet bowl through the seat and vents it harmlessly to the outside of the building."
The Miracle Seat, which costs $259 and takes an estimated three hours to install for do-it-yourselfers, is only available for consumers online at www.miracleseat.com, although the company plans to initiate retail sales of the kit.
"We'll be doing some test markets with retailers in the next 60 days or so," the spokesman said, adding that home centers are a likely target.
The design for the Miracle Seat was conceived by the late Anthony Prisco, a local inventor, who came up with the concept in the mid-1990s.
"He had this great idea and developed a wooden model of a vented toilet seat," the company spokesman said. "I envision him as Geppetto in the Pinocchio story, an Italian wood-carver working in a little workshop somewhere as he carved out a toilet seat."
In need of financing in order to file patents and produce some prototypes, Prisco located Angelo Cassaro, owner of several valley businesses, including AA Cassaro Plumbing Company.
"Angelo owned a well known plumbing company and since this was a plumbing product it seemed logical for (Prisco) to contact people he knew in his circle of friends," the spokesman said. "Angelo was interested, so he made an initial investment in what amounted to be eventually more than half a million dollars."
Another company co-founder, Nicholas Montana, a retired building developer with interests in numerous valley businesses, also invested in the Miracle Seat.
Four patents were granted during the late 1990s for the various features that are in the seats. The company then had some prototypes produced, and by late 1999 the current design was completed. The company proceeded to conduct field tests, installing the seats in homes and businesses in Southern Nevada and Southern California. To date, the company has produced and sold in excess of a thousand Miracle Seats.
The office of John David Burke Architect, on West Oquendo Road in Las Vegas, installed the Miracle Seat about two and a half years ago.
"I didn't think it would work, but there are no smells in there, which is really nice," office manager Megan Williams said. "I think every business should have Miracle Seats in their bathrooms."
Goldilocks salon and day spa also installed the Miracle Seat. The salon, located on West Sahara Avenue, had a centrally located restroom on its first floor that was posing a major problem odor-wise.
"We found that sometimes customers had to wait for the restrooms as other clients lingered in embarrassment before leaving the restroom 'too soon,' " said salon president Lori Gore in a July 2003 letter to the Miracle Seat Co. "Smells would escape and linger around eight of the stations."
|Miracle Seat Co.
|Owners: Delpriss & Co. Inc.
Type of business: Manufacturer of bathroom accessories
Location: 4327 W. Sunset Road
Work Force: Six
Gore was told it would cost about $60,000 to relocate the bathroom. Then a plumbing contractor, who happened to be a friend of Montana's, recommended installing the Miracle Seat in each of the salon's two bathrooms and testing the system for a few weeks before considering renovations. The product lived up to its name.
Although the company said the original strategy was to market the new product based solely on elimination of odors in the home or business, it canned that plan after they conducted extensive market research that revealed a second tangible benefit of the Miracle Seat: the elimination of germs and airborne impurities.
"We found that there are several things people are concerned about in the bathroom," a company spokesman said. "Our findings were that, first of all, people differentiate between their home bathroom and other bathrooms, such as those in restaurants or at the office. At home, people are not concerned about germs in their bathroom because they are confident that they clean well enough that germs aren't an issue -- odors are the issue."
He cited as an example a dinner party where a guest or the host might become embarrassed about lingering -- and unmistakable -- odors in the powder room.
When using a public bathroom, such as a facility in an office building or restaurant, he said market research revealed that the germ factor is more of a concern.
"We found that instead of focusing solely on odor, there was a valid reason for bringing the hygiene issue into the message," he said, adding that the Miracle Seat vacuums viruses and germs -- including hepatitis A and Norwalk Virus -- from the toilet bowl before they reach the air. "Viruses that grow in the gastrointestinal tract escape through the stool into the toilet bowl, and when the toilet is flushed the aerosol effect causes them to spew out and land on countertops, tissues, towels and toothbrushes. If someone has the flu or an upset stomach or has eaten chicken tainted with salmonella, all of those replicate in the gut and get into the air, so you can spread disease from one person to another by sharing a bathroom."
With two strong messages in mind -- and an advertising budget that he said was less than one-tenth of what it should have been -- the company focused its marketing efforts largely on public relations, along with targeted direct marketing, and developed a series of news releases targeting specific niche markets, including restaurants concerned about losing customers because of offensive odors, hotels fearful of viral outbreaks (such as recent episodes on cruise ships) and homeowners who wish to avoid potential embarrassment for themselves or their guests.
"I've tried to incorporate contemporary, newsworthy issues, rely on focus group findings and quantitative research information," he said. He also utilizes a creative approach in his public relations efforts.
For example, while watching a television documentary, he said he discovered that the toilets used on the space shuttles work on the same principle as the Miracle Seat.
"I contacted NASA and found out that their cost was $3 million per toilet, so (the pitch was) 'Now you can have a $3 million toilet for your home,' " he said.
As for the profitability of the company, the company spokesman said, "We're still at a point where we're investing more than the profits we are generating. The reason is, obviously as with any new company, major objectives are to establish broad distribution and volume."
He said the Miracle Seat Co. is in discussions with several industry leaders, including a leading manufacturer of ventilation fans.
"We are discussing methods by which we could implement joint marketing of their fan with the Miracle Seat," he said. "The Miracle Seat Co. would, in this case, produce an adapter for their fan that would allow it to connect to the Miracle Seat. We are also discussing options with leading manufacturers of toilets for the RV industry, which includes motor coaches and self-contained trailers, and we've had inquiries from companies that want to license the product for distribution in several countries, including Australia, Canada, England, Belgium and others."
Miracle Seat Company is the Nevada manufacturer of this product, which is protected by U.S. Patents and Patents Pending. Miracle Seat is a registered trademark of Delpriss & Company.