Reno startup Peep No More eyes $1 million in revenue by end of 2020
RENO, Nev. — “There has to be a better way,” Joey Mares says to herself.
It’s 2011 and Mares, pregnant, is in a busy restroom in the Grand Sierra Resort in Reno, bending over as she scans beneath the stalls for feet. Other women hunting for vacant stalls mirror her actions.
Frustrated, Mares has an idea flash into her mind: What if there was a device that simply indicated when a public bathroom stall is occupied? No more awkward 90-degree body bends, no more scans for shoes, no more time wasted searching for an empty stall. Simply put, no more peeping.
“I had an a-ha moment and the idea just popped into my head,” said Mares, who thought of her company name right there and then: Peep No More.
A mother of two daughters with a third on the way, Mares founded her company later that year and quickly began making prototypes out of a plastic cutting board. Following a few years of testing the product, Peep No More went to market in January 2015 with a hands-free, spring-loaded device that automatically toggled between a red “occupied” and a green “vacant” sign.
“I kind of like to think of it as civilizing the restroom routine,” Mares said. “Because it’s such an uncivilized process right now. The whole key to our product is that it’s simple, easy and can be seen from a far distance.”
And right now, less than nine years after starting the company, Mares’ invention can be seen in restrooms all across the country — from gas stations and airports to broadway theaters and sports stadiums.
In fact, Peep No More indicators are currently being tested in “The Most Magical Place on Earth”: Disney World in Orlando, Florida.
“The contract’s not in place yet, but we have been testing in Disney World and now they’re considering them for Disneyland and Disney Paris,” Mares explained to the NNBW. “So, I don’t have the contract yet, but I’m sure it’s coming because the testing has been going good.”
Mares said securing a contract with Disney Parks would be a “huge” boon for her Reno-based company, not only from a sales perspective but also from a marketing and recognition standpoint.
“With Disney, every little detail matters, so it’s not easy to get with them (Disney),” she continued. “It’s a huge confidence boost when I can say to potential clients, ‘oh, by the way, our stuff is testing in Disney World.’ And they’re like, ‘oh, really?’”
Peep No More, which manufacturers its products in Reno, was introduced to the public in Reno at the National Bowling Stadium in early 2015. Soon after, Mares’ company made a sale to Mackay Stadium at the University of Nevada, Reno. Notably, Mares, a Carson City native, earned an accounting degree and all-conference honors in track and cross country at UNR.
Mares was quick to credit the startup ecosystem in Northern Nevada for encouraging and supporting her as she worked to get her product to market. Specifically, she said Entrepreneurs Assembly co-founder Rod Hosilyk and engineers at Reno-based Synergy Technology were instrumental in helping her redesign her product and push past the finish line.
Since, Mares has been running Reno-based Peep No More with her husband, Steven, a CPA, who does the accounting for the company. They outsource the warehousing, assembling and shipping to Reno-based Reliable Management Solutions, she said.
AN EASY SELL
After its initial successes with local facilities, Peep No More hit a major milestone in 2016 when it landed contracts with two clients in the majors: the San Diego Padres (Petco Park) and San Francisco Giants (Oracle Park).
Not long after came the San Francisco 49ers (Levi Stadium), Live Nation Amphitheaters across the U.S., and major airports in Las Vegas, Phoenix and Portland, among other clients. And this year, in 2020, Peep No More indicators were installed at bathrooms in the Gershwin Theater, a famed Broadway theater in New York City.
“I literally just picked up the phone and called places. It’s a very easy sell,” said Mares. She added that societal pushes for privacy and efficiency have only made the sales pitch for Peep No More products that much easier. “People want to get in and out of the bathroom. And now, customers are demanding it, basically. It’s a demand for privacy.
“And companies want people to get in and out of the bathroom so they can make more money during intermissions or halftimes at stadiums. There’s limited time to make money at these events.”
At the Giants’ Oracle Park, for example, the bathroom lines have been cut in half, according to Mares. In fact, due to overflowing bathroom lines, the Giants were planning to put in a new multimillion-dollar restroom before Mares called them.
“They ended up trying my signs and never had to put in a new restroom, even to this day,” she said. “Even throughout their sold-out games, anything, it just solves all of the problems.”
CHANGING WITH THE TIMES
In addition to growing their business with large stadiums, theaters and airports, Peep No More is also expanding into new markets. What’s more, its products are being used outside of restrooms. Mares said Peep No More was recently approved for a test pilot in fitting rooms at 50 Ross Stores. In addition, the devices are being used in restrooms at Microsoft’s Seattle offices.
“Businesses never used to be our target market but employees use the bathroom five to seven times a day and they want to make their employees happy,” Mares said. “We’re entering new markets that we really didn’t anticipate, but the times are changing.”
To that end, Mares said Peep No More is on the heels of generating $185,000 in sales in 2019, compared to $125,000 in 2018. In 2020, the company is on track to cross $500,000 in sales, with the goal of hitting over $1 million by year’s end, Mares said.
“I think we’re definitely on target to do that with all of the things we have in the pipeline,” she said. “Privacy, cleanliness and efficiency … the demand for those is the driving force right now. I’m excited to be here at this point. It’s been a really long journey and it’s been quite a process, but it’s been all worth it.”
“I point out many cases of where privately owned companies do just as bad a job as publicly owned companies,” says Reno resident and former teacher Robert (R.D.) Gardner.