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Flushing with success, one entrepreneur cashes in a disposable idea

Out of frustration from not finding traveling packs of high-quality toilet seat covers, Dora Cardenas-Ruckstuhl creates a product that puts a profitable spin to an unsexy item.


LatinaLista — By her own admission, Dora Cardenas-Ruckstuhl has always been a dreamer. Ever since emigrating from her native sultry Colombia for the teeth-chattering temperatures of Canada at age 9 with her family, Dora dreamt of a future where she was the master of her destiny.

“I was always a dreamer,” Dora said. “I remember at least once a month informing my dad that I changed my mind about my “destined” career. This lasted way into my twenties and each time I told him of my newfound path, he acted with enthusiasm and never once asked why I changed my mind. My dad made me feel as though I could do and be anything in this world.”

Dora Cardenas-Ruckstuhl, co-founder of Toletta, showcases the handy travel-size product that makes using public restrooms safer and cleaner.

Yet, never in her wildest dreams did she ever foresee herself where she is today — as vice-president of communications and co-founder, with her husband Caine, of Toletta, a line of disposable toilet seat covers.

The idea for Toletta was born literally out of frustration.

Dora and her husband were trying to find some travel-size packs of disposable paper toilet seat covers to take with them on a trip. They didn’t realize how hard a task that would be.

“Not only was I shocked to learn that travel packs are hard to find,” Dora said. “But the products we did find didn’t have any ounce of style or quality tissues. All the products we found looked and felt like something you would find in camping supply stores — not exactly something retail stores and supermarkets would be proud to carry on their shelves.”

So the young couple got to work to create the kind of toilet seat covers they wouldn’t mind using themselves. They found the softest tissues on the market, 20 percent larger and 42 percent thicker than other brands. But that was only half of the equation. They realized that just as important as the product was a strong brand.

“We were looking for a name that not only made people think about toilets but also made people feel that the brand was high-end,” Dora revealed.

Finding the right brand name and available URL to create the kind of website they envisioned to market their product took over six weeks to accomplish. Dora credits her husband with thinking of the brand name.

However, the two would soon learn that was the easy part of the business success they both dreamed for themselves.

Next, both Dora and Caine knew they had to follow a basic entrepreneurial blueprint: Identify market potential; research start-up costs; create a brand strategy; develop the product and finally — start selling.

But Dora and her husband weren’t finished yet with their business plan. There was one element lacking. The couple didn’t just want to put a product on the market — they wanted to help people in another way too.

“We hope to not only build a successful brand but a company dedicated to charitable donations,” Dora said. “If we can sell a great product and help thousands of people in need then that’s a legacy.

Creating two color schemes for Toletta products, pink and blue, Dora and her husband designated part of the proceeds from each line to go to either breast cancer research or child poverty awareness

Their goal of making a difference in people’s lives will be helped by the launch of their online store in May 2009 and ongoing distribution deals with leading retailers from Canada and the U.S. to Poland and South and West Africa.

Already there are trinkling signs of success. The couple is especially proud at becoming successful selling an “unsexy” product.

“If you can be successful selling a boring product like paper toilet seat covers, then imagine what you could do with a sexy product,” confessed Dora.

But Dora isn’t finished dreaming.

“The first dream is to survive the first year in business. The second dream is to land some large accounts that will allow us to worry less about money. The third dream is to have a business that’s on autopilot that requires little time to manage. The fourth dream is to purchase a nice condo in the tropics. We hate the cold winters.

That’s all the dreams — for now.”

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