MBA grad, Cory Listner, is already putting skills that he learned in his graduate courses to use in his entrepreneurial endeavors.
As a natural entrepreneur, Cory Listner turns problems into solutions and perceives opportunity where others see risk.
Not to say he didn't utter a few choice words when he discovered strawberry milkshake spilled across the backseat of his car by one of his children a year and a half ago.
"I thought, 'Damn it! I should have kid-proofed this car,'" the father of five said.
But so began his idea to bring a product to market that would do just that. A chemical engineer in the oil and gas industry for Nalco Champion, Listner graduated in August from the Professional MBA Program at the Jerry S. Rawls College of Business and has already made headway in marketing his product, aptly named Kid Proof.
The product is a spray-on, water-based solution containing silica that uses the hydrophobic properties of nano-technology, instead of harsh chemicals, to help repel staining substances, he said. Nano-technology particles are only about one-billionth of a meter in size, he said. Other companies have used the same type of solution, so it is not patented or secret, but it is not easy to create because of the challenge of mixing silica into water, Listner said. Doing so requires ultrasonification using a fast-moving probe that vibrates and sends sonic waves through the solution, which in turn makes the water receive and mix with the silica. Surfactants, like soap, are added to keep the silica from falling out of the solution, he said.
Figuring out how to produce it required considerable online research on Listner's part, in addition to his foundational understanding of chemistry from being a chemical engineer.
"I remembered that in my old company, which was a thermoplastic compounder, we made rubber pellets and coated them with silica to keep the material from sticking to itself. With water, silica would bead off your arm because silica repels water," he said.
His solution repels wine, coffee, tea, juice and many other substances and stays on clothing for at least 15 wash cycles, he said.
He founded Caprock Products last September and started making Kid Proof in his home kitchen in April.
"It was labor intensive," he said, noting that he initially had to agitate the solution by hand.
Though he now uses a machine, he still makes and bottles the solution at his home in Midland, Texas. He markets the product at tradeshows and to West Texas children's boutique clothing stores, and he sells the product online through his website.
"From what I understand, once this starts to gain some traction, it's going to take off like a bat out of hell," he said.
Indeed, his product is already attracting attention. Fox 4 Dallas and six other Fox television markets showed his product on TV in May as part of a story for National Inventor's Month.
He credits his education at Rawls College for helping to prepare him for some of the challenges of entrepreneurship.
"I think I would be hard pressed to find a much better program," he said.
He found four courses in particular to be especially relevant, starting with Managing Innovation and Change.
"That was the class that really clicked for me and set me down this path," he said, noting that Market Concepts and Strategies, Strategic and Global Management, and Financial Management Concepts were valuable courses too. "I certainly picked up a lot from all of the classes. It's hard to say which ones really gave me tips as they all have in a way, and I'll be using them as I move forward."
Kid Proof is "the tip of the iceberg," he said, noting his plans to bring other variants of the product to market, as well as other completely different products, such as children's toys. His kids are always providing new and innovative concepts, he said.
The spilled strawberry milkshake led to the launch of Kid Proof, which is taking Listner on the journey of his dreams.
"It gave me the opportunity to do what I really have needed to do my entire life," Listner said. "I am an entrepreneur, and I'm the kind of person who needs to do my own thing. I'm not doing this to get rich. I'm doing this because I have to, or I will go crazy."