Matt Uhrich, a Colwich entrepreneur and 2015 Wichita State University graduate, recently brought to market a product designed to detect slow household water leaks.
Called the One Drop Alarm, the product is an electrode-laced pad that sets off an alert when it comes in contact with water. The alarm, which Uhrich assembles in his garage, is available online for $29.90 (onedropalarm.com), and Uhrich hopes to one day see his pads sold at big-box retailers like Home Depot and Lowe’s.
Uhrich, 47, talks about one entrepreneur’s journey from idea to marketplace.
Q. 1 How did you get the idea for the One Drop Alarm?
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A. In 2013, I replaced a garbage disposal underneath my kitchen sink. It eventually worked loose and began to slowly drip water, which wasn’t caught until my cabinet was ruined and I was out several hundred dollars. Because it was a “slow, reoccurring drip,” the damage wasn’t covered by my homeowners insurance, though it would have been if the damage had been caused by a sudden burst of water.
I searched, but the only products I found required that the leak be substantial in size for the alarm to be triggered. I thought there should be a flat mat that could detect a single drop. I saw that someone else patented a similar product about 11 years ago, but he never brought anything to market, so I called him and purchased the patent.
Q. 2 You’ve sold some alarms, but the product has yet to really take off. As you attempt to bring it to the next level, what has it been like to manufacture something that people are buying for their homes or places of business?
A. There have been two days that stand out the most in this process. The first was the day that I was able to consistently make a working product, and the other was my first sale to a stranger. Just recently, I received a call – followed by a purchase – from a scientist at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory. He wanted to use the One Drop Alarm to detect potential leaks with some very sophisticated machinery, which made me feel good.
Q. 3 Entrepreneurship seems to be a big focus right now at Wichita State. As an alum of the school’s entrepreneurship program, what do you think of WSU’s commitment to enterprising students?
A. I think President (John) Bardo is doing wonderful things. I’m anxious about the development of the Innovation Campus and can’t wait to see what comes out of it. I know there is going to be a “maker space” at the university, which will give students the ability to design concepts using WSU’s 3-D printers and other devices. This will also really help introduce students to people who can help them move their ideas from mind to market.
Q. 4 Wichita has a long history of innovative business ideas, but the consensus seems to be that the city is lagging behind in some ways lately. What is the future of entrepreneurship here in Wichita?
A. I believe that entrepreneurship will continue to thrive and expand in Wichita. There are so many networking and educational opportunities throughout the city, and there are people and organizations that sincerely want to help individuals, small business owners and larger businesses. I’m excited about the future of entrepreneurship here.
Q. 5 You took a bit of a chance on your idea by selling a lawn care business you owned in order to finance this venture. What is your advice for the young or new entrepreneur?
A. Get a mentor. I found a mentor who was instrumental in the development of my One Drop Alarm. I’m also a board member of the Inventors Association of South Central Kansas, and I found a lot of help through that association, which offers free memberships to high school and college students.