October 31, 2014  

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Southern Miss Graduate Looks to Market Shower/Bath Accessory

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University of Southern Mississippi business graduate Justin Clark shows off his invention the "Handy Hi-5." (University Communications photo by Van Arnold)

University of Southern Mississippi graduate Justin Clark sees problems as nothing more than challenges that arouse his analytical, entrepreneurial mind.

For as long as he can remember, the Hattiesburg, Miss., native has tinkered with ideas that would make the world around him a better place. Armed with a bachelor’s degree in business administration, Clark has wasted no time in developing and implementing a strategy for success.

With $4,000 he collected from student loan refunds, plus $2,500 he saved from working two part-time jobs, Clark formed his own company – Golden Source Inventors LLC. Cautious optimism and unbridled enthusiasm lead Clark to believe that his budding inventions will find their way to retail shelves eventually.

“Over the course of my 24 years, I have found many things that I was not good at, so it is finally nice to find my niche and expose my talent for a change,” said Clark. “I can create a new product within hours. My motto is ‘if you can find a problem, I can create a product that addresses the problem.’ ”

At the moment his prized product is a nifty shower/bath accessory Clark has dubbed the “Handy Hi-5.” The invention features a one-size-fits-all glove made from terrycloth or a similar material. Attached to the glove on the palm area is a sponge with a cavity built into the bottom. A small bar of soap or a dispensation of liquid soap can be inserted into the cavity. While bathing, the sponge absorbs water and causes the soap to produce suds for cleaning.

Clark’s target audience includes business travelers, families on vacations, those serving in the military, disaster relief victims and residents of elderly support homes.

“The idea is to provide a more efficient bathing experience,” he said. “The cosmetic appearance of this product can eliminate routine bathing steps, cutting down the required shower time and ultimately saving water and reducing energy usage. Individuals who travel regularly will enjoy a product they can pack easily and rely upon for quick and efficient cleaning.”

Clark further notes that the Handy Hi-5’s secure attachment requires no gripping, making it perfect for small children or older individuals who may have trouble holding onto a slippery sponge or loofah.

Count Southern Miss Professor SherRhonda Gibbs among those who strongly believe that Clark is destined for business success.

“Justin knows how to make it happen; he’s a doer and very action-oriented,” said Gibbs, who has served as an instructor and mentor to Clark. “This is a critical step in becoming a successful entrepreneur. He’s also building and nurturing the right relationships which are extremely important in creating a business.”

The entrepreneurial spirit that drives Clark also provides inspiration for Gibbs.

“Justin is the type of student that makes it worthwhile to be a professor,” she said. “He’s one of the most creative and innovative students I’ve had the pleasure of teaching. I can’t say enough about how much I admire and respect this young man.”

Clark’s Handy Hi-5 has already received some priceless attention from the producers of the popular ABC television show “Shark Tank.” On the show four millionaire/billionaire entrepreneurs listen to sales pitches from relatively unknown inventors before deciding whether to invest in the product or not.

Thus far, Clark has advanced past two rounds of interviews that could ultimately land him a spot on the weekly TV program.

“At first I filled out a questionnaire for the show online. I didn’t hear anything for about a month and then I saw that they were having live auditions in Detroit,” Clark said. “I was geared up to make the drive just to audition when I received a call from the show saying that they loved my product and wanted to learn more. After a 15-minute conversation they asked me to send a video and additional info that will determine if I make it to the finalist audition. I’m still waiting to hear back, but whether I make it on the show or not, it’s been a great experience for me.”

Clark credits his parents, Charles Hill and Renee Clark, for instilling the will to persevere in the face of adversity. A graduate of Forrest County Agricultural High School, Clark spent much of his childhood on the streets and playgrounds of Palmers Crossing, a lower-economic area of Hattiesburg. Through Pell grants, student loans and other means of financial aid, he managed to complete his college education at Southern Miss (Class of 2011).

“Growing up I was always taught that if you really have a passion or love for something, give it all you got and do not quit,” said Clark. “We were far from rich, but my parents did an excellent job of teaching me that wealth is all about attitude and how you carry yourself.”

Those time-tested words of encouragement would ring in Clark’s ears during the endless hours of testing he conducted on a Handy Hi-5 prototype. Many nights saw him up until 3 or 4 a.m. cutting 300 or more bars of soap for product trials. All of this was sandwiched between a full class schedule and his part-time jobs mowing lawns and working retail sales at Turtle Creek Mall.

Currently, Clark has filed for two patents – one for design and a provisional option as protection for the Handy Hi-5. He is working at breakneck speed to negotiate a licensing/manufacturing deal.

“There is no such thing as an inventor prototype fairy, so you have to shop around to find people who are willing to take time out of their normal schedule to hear this crazy idea you dreamed up,” said Clark. “You get a lot of strange looks and laughs in some cases. But you just have to shake it off and keep going.

“If I had a nickel for everyone who said I wouldn’t be anything or wouldn’t make it, well then I wouldn’t need any investors.”

To learn more about Clark’s company, contact him at justincclark1@yahoo.com