Kelly McBroom shows off a repurposed ski pole turned plunger at Quarry Lake.
ARYN TOOMBS RMO PHOTO
A voracious fan of Rocky Mountain big dumps, alpine skier Kelly McBroom has dropped into more bowls than anyone in the Bow Valley.
Now, she's turning her excitement over double entendres into a business with the creation of Big Dump Plungers.
The origin story is simple. A penniless world cup skier turned starving Montana State University marketing student, McBroom found herself in a crappy situation when all of her girlfriends were getting married.
Without extra cash to purchase a wedding gift, McBroom turned to her ingenuity and twisted sense of humour to come up with the perfect solution.
“What do you get your girlfriends, who are all skiers, when you have nothing? The ski pole plunger was born,” McBroom said.
“I took recycled ski poles and turned them into a fully functional plunger. When I gave them to my girlfriends, I told them, ‘Congratulations on taking the plunge.' The plungers became the most talked about items in their households.”
Flush with success, the ski pole plungers eventually evolved into the 27-year-old ‘entre-poo-neur's new company, and a marketing project during her senior year.
“Ski pole plungers are not new, but no one has started a company with it. It came about that I should name it Big Dump, and it just kind of evolved,” McBroom said.
Her senior capstone marketing project at the University of Montana involved selling a hard to market project, and the plunger proved to be the perfect fit.
“I talked the university into starting a business. They gave me interns,” McBroom said. “They were there mostly for awareness. I made them ski with plungers every day, and hand out business cards. This has been an evolving process for two years.”
McBroom sees the product as a perfect, goofy marriage between her ski career, marketing chops and humanitarian side.
A former member of Canada's Alpine Ski Team with a strong social consciousness, she's also partnered with the Centre for Affordable Water and Sanitation Technology (CAWST) to donate a portion of her profits to raise awareness about sanitation in developing countries.
“Clean water, for the past 10 years, has been very sexy, but people are not talking about sanitation. About 2.4 billion people don't have access to a toilet, and what better way to talk about sanitation than a plunger?” McBroom said.
CAWST is one of the top 20 charities in Canada, and McBroom said it's become a great partner in trying to take the ‘tapoo' out of discussing sanitation.
“Half the world openly defecates, and no one talks about it, but this is where Big Dumps come in. If we make it funny, it can catch on a bit,” McBroom said. “Around the world, companies are building toilets. But if you don't educate the populations about why it's important or how toilets reduce the spread of disease, facilities are turned into chicken coups. It's defeating the purpose.”
She's now manufacturing three models in her Canmore home, where she sells them online (bigdumpplungers.com) and at the Canmore farmer's market on Aug. 11.
The response thus far has been overwhelming, as she has added a Big Dumps Western Tour through Banff, Rossland, Revelstoke, Golden, Kimberley, the Shuswap and Vancouver.
“It's for everyone who sees it, and who gets it – who understands it's a play on words. If you don't get it, you're not my market,” McBroom said. “I hope to continue to grow it, and see a big dump in every bathroom.”