Angela Brathwaite, founder of Road Trip Potty, was raised in North Carolina where she also attended college. She received a Master's in Education before relocating to Southern California where she obtained a second Master's Degree along with a Doctorate in Education from the University of Southern California in 2011. After earning her degrees, Brathwaite held a variety of jobs in education including Assistant Principal and Principal. In May of 2013, during her time as a high school principal, Brathwaite suffered a serious injury that set the stage for the creation of the Road Trip Potty.
"I slipped at work and dislocated both of my knees," she said. "I also experienced a significant back injury. After my first knee surgery, I was staying with friends who lived 45 miles from my doctor's office. With traffic, the drive could be one to two hours. Because of my post-surgical brace, getting in and out of the car to use the restroom was a huge challenge. It was also sometimes hard to find clean restrooms while traveling. I had a vision of what I wanted to use in the car but couldn't find it online. I sketched it out and started to search for something similar on the United States Patent and Trademark Office Database. I couldn't find anything. That's when I knew I was on to something, so I took the steps towards getting a utility patent and a design patent. It took two years, but by 2016, I had both patents."
Once Brathwaite had her patents, she turned her attention to the manufacturing process. She called different departments within the federal government to find US manufacturers. She was sent to a variety of organizations but didn't get any replies. She looked at manufacturing databases and made numerous calls but still never got a reply. As luck would have it, a friend of a friend connected her to a company that did injection molding. They were located in Valencia, CA, not far from where Brathwaite was living at the time. She met with the owner, developed a good relationship and moved forward with the manufacturing process.
The final product, Road Trip Potty, launched in July of 2017, is a lightweight plastic device that allows a woman to use the bathroom practically anywhere. It can be stored and transported with ease and is made entirely in the United States. Road Trip Potty is ideal if you're stuck in traffic, spend a considerable amount of time on the road, use a wheelchair, have difficultly controlling your bladder or if you're potty training a toddler. Road Trip Potty is currently only available through the company’s website, RoadTripPotty.com, but as Brathwaite explained, there will be future opportunities for additional distribution channels.
"I'm currently looking at a variety of business models to make that happen," she said. "It has to feel right in order for me to do it. I get solicited and unsolicited advice all the time. Everyone wants to tell me how to grow and expand my company, but at the end of the day, I need to follow my intuition when it comes to making big decisions. I'm always disappointed when I don't follow my intuition. The things I'm hearing need to align with what I know about the business and the direction it should be going in."
Brathwaite admitted that in order to move forward, she needs to become more comfortable with putting herself personally out there. "I've always lived a very consistent life focusing on students, teachers and being in a space of altruism," she said. "I'm excited when I'm helping someone else. I'm not very comfortable talking about myself and about what I'm doing, but as an entrepreneur, you have to talk about yourself, what you do and your accomplishments. I'm working through my own issues connected with moving from a space of altruism to becoming an entrepreneur. The accident really forced me to look at life in a different way and to make different decisions."
Looking ahead, Brathwaite wants to get her sales to the point where she can open a major distribution facility in Fort Pierce, FL. She has plans to expand her operations to an international level. She's also committed to funding research and giving back to various non-profits for girls and women. Being open about her commitments and her visions allows Brathwaite, and the company, to be held accountable. It also allows her to tap into and expand the altruistic feeling she's always had. This component is very important to Brathwaite.
What advice does Brathwaite have for aspiring innovators, inventors and entrepreneurs? "Follow your intuition," she said. "If you don't, you will live your life wondering about what you should have done or could have done. It will eat away at you. I give that advice to others, but I also have to remind myself of it every day. That voice that clearly says, 'you should do this or you should do that', listen to it. The outcomes are always amazing. You'll end up in the right place at the right time."