Once Upon a Time….

It’s story time.

In the late 1920’s a gentleman name Cleo McVicker was working for a company out of Cincinnati, Ohio called Kutol. Kutol manufactured soap, but in 1933 they were close to going out of business.

Cleo decided to do something about it and approached Kroger grocery stores and negotiated a contract to supply them with ready made wallpaper cleaner. In those days people used coal to heat their homes and it left a nasty black soot on the walls.

But Cleo had one tiny problem….. Kutol had never manufactured wallpaper cleaner.
His brother Noah also worked at the company and was a product developer.

He came up with the winning formula that included flour, water, and salt. The result of this combination was a malleable, clay-like substance that was used to roll over wallpaper to remove soot.

Here’s what a can of Kutol Wallpaper Cleaner looked like


Sales were going well for about 20 years until a change occurred in how people heated their homes. Oil, gas, and electricity slowly replaced coal and with coal being used less and less it meant wallpaper cleaner became obsolete. 

Unfortunately, Cleo died in 1949 and his son Joseph faced the challenge of keeping Kutol alive.

In 1955, Joseph’s sister in law Kay was a school teacher and she told Joseph about how her students were using the Kutol Wallpaper Cleaner as “clay” to make various designs. Joseph went back to the factory and had his wallpaper cleaner reformulated and turned into a child’s toy.

In 1956 he established the Rainbow Crafts Company Inc. This product is now known as Play-Doh.

Play-Doh was being sold locally in schools, but McVicker wanted to reach a larger audience and he lacked  an advertising budget to get the word out.  So again he got creative and partnered with Bob Keeshan who the world knows as Captain Kangaroo. Bob agreed to play with Play Doh at least once per week on his show.  Sales of Play Doh skyrocketed as a result.

This was influencer marketing before Instagram 🙂

By 1964 The Rainbow Crafts Company were shipping more than one million cans of Play Doh annually. None of this would have been possible if Cleo and his son Joseph hadn’t pivoted.

I think you can see the amazing business lesson that this story provides, but there will be times in business and life where things are going good until they’re not. You can give up or you can look for ways to pivot and keep going.

I say pivot and keep moving forward.