A Duke sophomore wiped away his competition in a national entrepreneurship contest with his toilet paper startup.
Entrepreneur Magazine recently named sophomore Bryan Silverman as College Entrepreneur of 2012 for his startup Star Toilet Paper, which prints advertisements on toilet paper. Silverman beat four other finalists—students at Arizona State University, Carnegie Mellon University, Johns Hopkins University and the University of Pennsylvania.
“It didn’t really hit me until I saw my face in the magazine,” Silverman said. “It just kind of felt like something that was cool, but now it feels like it’s unbelievably real.”
Silverman launched the company with his brother, Jordan, in 2010 with less than $1,000 of their own money. Companies pay Star to print advertisements on the top ply of recycled toilet paper using vegetable oil-based ink. Star then seeks out businesses willing to use the toilet paper for free.
The award is validation for all the hard work that the company has put into the idea, Silverman said.
“Everything that we’re doing is worth it,” he said. “You put the hard work in each and every day, and you finally have something to show for it.”
Although both brothers have been involved with building the company since day one, Jordan Silverman said he came up with the initial idea when he was bored in the bathroom. But he knew he wanted to share it with his brother.
“When you start a company, you look to the smartest person you know and that’s what I did,” Jordan Silverman said.
Jordan Silverman, who now works full-time at Star, described himself as a very proud older brother.
“There is no one more deserving than him—he works very hard,” Jordan Silverman said.
The application process for the award involved a written application, followed by a semifinalist and finalist round and a video submission, all moderated by a panel of judges. Silverman was invited to Entrepreneur’s 2013 Growth Conference held in Dallas, Texas earlier this month, where he spoke to an audience of more than 800 people.
“I was nervous but it was exciting, too—just to talk about my story and my passions,” Silverman said. “I had people coming up asking to take pictures with me and my brother. I even had someone ask for my autograph, which will probably never happen again.”
Blue Note Grill at 4125 Durham-Chapel Hill Blvd. was the first Durham business to carry the toilet paper. Owner Bill Whittington read about Star and later agreed to sign on when Bryan Silverman reached out to him.
“As a businessman, I thought it would be a great idea to support him and bring it here,” Whittington said. “He’s sharp and very excited about what he’s doing. It’s great to see somebody with an idea and run with it.”
Customers at Blue Note Grill are talking about the advertisement-covered toilet paper, Whittington added.
“The customers will come out of the restroom with a foot length of it in their hand and take it to the table and talk about it or ask us about it, so it’s been a good conversation piece,” Whittington said.
The Silverman brothers said they hope to grow the company so that Star Toilet Paper is carried in venues all across the country.
“We want to make a toilet-paper empire,” Bryan Silverman said.