Since graduating, two former University of Saskatchewan business students have been on a mission to find a solution to one of Canada’s most pressing issues — the smell of dirty hockey equipment.
Dan Robinson and Chad Fischl, co-founders and CEOs of Shutout Solutions, came up with the idea for a deodorant spray for your hockey or gym bag while taking an entrepreneurial class at the U of S.
Today, less than a decade later, the product is being sold across the country.
“We didn’t know what it was going to be,” Robinson said. “We just knew it was going to be something in a bottle that worked to get the smell out of hockey equipment.”
The two students asked members of the university’s health sciences department why hockey equipment tends to stink so much and why many cleaning products can’t get rid of the smell. They were told that bacteria living in the equipment causes odour and antibacterial cleaners are the only way to deal with it.
Most products either mask the smell with a fragrance or use heavy chemicals that are harmful to the skin. The goal for Robinson and Fischl was to design a product that was all-natural, that was safe and that actually worked.
“We searched for a natural antibacterial and found silver. We found that nobody was really doing it in a product like that and really there were barely any products out there that [used] silver,” Robinson said.
While researching for the assignment, Robinson and Fischl came across a company working at Pohang University of Science and Technology in Pohang, South Korea that was developing silver for commercial use as an antibacterial. At the time, the company had worked on a small line of personal care products that included facial soap, makeup remover and antibacterial mascara.
This technology uses a specific amount of silver nanoparticles of a particular size and creates a solution that stops the particles from settling out or sticking to the sides of the container. It does this all without using any chemicals.
Fischl and Robinson made a deal with the South Korean company that allows the two businesses to work together exclusively for five years. Shutout went on to patent the silver process as SilverSync+ Technology.
The young entrepreneurs came back to the U of S to test their first line of products, which included body wash, athletic equipment spray and laundry detergent. The Canadian Light Source confirmed that silver is both in the products and properly distributed throughout the solutions.
Currently Robinson is working with the university’s French department to translate Shutout’s packaging so it can be sold in Quebec.
“Anytime we’ve approached the university… usually professors and almost anybody you approach is interested in collaborating with a company that wants to do something and involve students,” Robinson said.
Since their first line was released, Shutout has expanded to 26 products, most of them industrial cleaners like degreasers and mopping solutions that they are marketing to mining companies and hotel chains.
Health and safety has become a large commitment for many companies in the last five years, Robinson said. He believes that people now see how hazardous some industrial cleaners and sprays can be.
Robinson said that while Shutout will continue selling its retail products, its main focus has shifted to engaging industries, like the mining and oil companies that are moving into Southern Saskatchewan, that want cleaners that are safe to use.
“We’re still fairly new and we’ve got to be going after those customers that are going to give us growth and give our company strength.”
Illustration: Donovan Thorimbert