The University of Tennessee College of Communication and Information graduate (2011) was a successful entrepreneur from late 2008 to early 2010 in Columbus, OH, importing electronic cigarettes, branding them and selling them in shopping mall kiosks. The future seemed very bright until litigation problems with his supplier literally brought Tunstall to his knees.
The collapse of his business brought Tunstall back to Knoxville where he finished his degree, developed a new business idea and launched his new company called Stall Talk. In a recent interview with teknovation.biz, Tunstall talked about the whirlwind existence that he has lived in the six months that have elapsed since his slightly revised business was launched around the time he was graduating.
Tunstall said that he had been focused on a marketing strategy to post “18 x 24 inch print publication featuring inspirational, informational, educational, and entertaining” messages inside bathroom stall doors and other locations in bathrooms. About three weeks before last fall’s Tennessee football opener, Tunstall received a call from an individual who had learned about his unique approach to marketing and asked for a meeting to discuss wrapping 500 portable toilets with marketing messages.
Tunstall quickly developed a marketing strategy for the portable toilet supplier, closed the deal and launched the new product at the first University of Tennessee game. The new opportunity also allowed him to modify his business plan in a way that allowed for better scalability. Instead of having to market to multiple distributors in multiple locations with many messages, Tunstall was able to work with larger distributors and tailor his product more to national companies that wanted to deliver targeted messages at highly trafficked events.
Since the fall launch of the portable toilet product, it has been a whirlwind period for the young entrepreneur who has built his company on a strategy of “creating mural advertisements using a multitude of structures (such as portable restrooms, window panes, fences and trash cans) . . . for our strategic network of high-profile events, venues and construction sites.”
Tunstall, along with friends and family, produced a video of fans’ reactions to the marketing messages on the portable toilets. The video can be viewed at http://stalltalk.net/.
Tunstall has developed a new business plan based on more than 4,000 portable toilet operators with 9 million portable toilets in the United States.
In mid-November, he was a co-winner of Tech 20/20’s “Throttle-Up” competition that was part of the Entrepreneurial Imperative Conference. This provided $2,500 and free space for a year in the Tech 20/20 incubator in Oak Ridge. He later won another Tech 20/20 competition that produced another $5,000 award.
Tunstall literally hit the road the day after winning the “Throttle-Up” competition, visiting 11 other Southeastern Conference (SEC) schools in six days. As of the first of February, Tunstall has inked deals with portable toilet companies to provide marketing messages this fall. The institutions where the messages will appear are Auburn, Georgia, Kentucky, South Carolina and Vanderbilt. He is pursuing other SEC schools and, for that matter, other conferences.
“I want to create a network of universities in each region, so that I can sell to national advertisers,” Tunstall said. He views this regional strategy with national companies as critical to his sustainability plans that also rely on controlling cost of goods and ensuring quality control.
He has also teamed-up with The InSite Group, a company that can provide nationwide installation of the adhesive vinyl advertisements.
Tunstall recently landed a deal with the largest portable toilet rental company in the Mid-West, growing his inventory to more than 18,000. Tunstall has also been meeting with the largest portable toilet distributor in the country and expects an agreement to be executed soon that would open-up 59 new markets in 19 states with 125,000 individual toilets.
As the portable toilet market at football games, concerts and other venues grows for Stall Talk, Tunstall also is exploring new approaches to “out of home advertising” such as school lockers and vehicles (like police cars) and new customers like not-for-profit fundraising organizations.
Through 2012 he will focus on building relationships with all of the portable toilet companies, targeting 122 universities and building a sales team in each region.
Tunstall thinks that he will have exited Stall Talk in five to 10 years, although he will probably retain a portion of company. This will leave him “fresh to do whatever I want to do,” he said.
For now, Tunstall is pleased that, unlike many entrepreneurs, “everything I seem to be trying to do is successful.” His greatest challenge for now is time.