Remediating a Messy Problem

For local inventor, septic system saga flows into Aero-Stream™

setic tank problems news - Remediating a Messy Problem
By Andy Turner
Special to The Business Journal
Posted: Friday, March 13, 2009

A failing septic system prompted engineer Karl Holt to develop a process to fix the problem, and in turn, started what has become a successful business venture.

Holt, 45, owns Aero-Stream® LLC in Hartland, which manufactures a patented product that restores failing residential septic systems and then maintains them. The Aero-Stream® Remediator™, which the company claims has a nearly 95 percent success rate, uses a natural bio-chemical process to convert an anaerobic septic system – one that is without oxygen – to one that is oxygen-friendly.

Holt also owns and operates Engineered Solutions Inc. in the same building. That company provides technical and employment services to companies such as Master Lock Co. and Harley-Davidson Inc.

In 2002, Holt was told his home’s septic system would need to be replaced and that it would cost him more than $15,000. Bob Jennings, owner of Advanced Plumbing in Glendale, said $15,000 to $20,000 is a realistic amount for replacing a septic system.

Holt sought sympathy from friends as he explained his septic saga at a Labor Day party. He ultimately decided to fix the problem himself – and was successful.

“A couple of months later I see (friends) and they asked about the septic system,” Holt said. When he told them he had fixed his septic system, his friends asked, “Really? Can you fix mine?”

With thoughts of commercial viability in his head, Holt completed 10 trials for his creation and had a 90 percent success rate.

“I guess I was fortunate enough to get it right the first time,” he said. “The development went very quickly.”

After tweaking what would become known as the Remediator™, Holt received approval for the product from the state Department of Commerce. Funding Aero-Stream® himself, Holt launched the Remediator™ in early 2003, and he has enjoyed “steady growth” since that time. The product costs between $875 and $1,375, depending on the size of the home. The Remediator™ is being distributed across North America; many customers who learn about the product through Aero-Stream®’s Web site are coming from Florida and the West Coast, Holt said.

“It’s a brand new technology that no one’s ever heard of,” he said. “You sell a $20 widget and it’s not so big a deal – you’re not out much; $1,000 is more substantial.”

LESSONS LEARNED By Karl Holt

What is your guiding principle?
“Treat others as you would like to be treated.”

What is your goal yet to be achieved?
“Solve every problem or challenge I encounter, or those presented to us, with a simple, practical and robust solution.”

What is your five-year vision?
“Continue the steady growth of Engineered Solutions and Aero-Stream® by designing and developing products that have a high benefit and low cost to our clients,
consumers and the environment.”

After being based in several rented buildings, Aero-Stream® and Engineered Solutions moved into a new, 6,800-square-foot facility in Hartland in August 2008. The companies occupy 4,000 square feet of the building and the remainder of the space is rented out. The Remediator™ is produced on-site.

Holt said his companies will take over the rented space as they expand. He has approval from Hartland to add another 12,000-square-foot building in front of his current facility as needed.

“We’ll be in this area for quite a while,” he said.

Splitting time

Aero-Stream® has six full-time employees. Holt and his wife, Lisa, who performs bookkeeping, split their time between Aero-Stream® and Engineered Solutions, which had annual revenue of nearly $1.3 million in 2008. Holt turned over day-to-day operations of Engineered Solutions in 2005.

Phil Lach started in January in the newly created position of vice president of sales at Aero-Stream®. His primary focus will be to develop a dealer network across North America for the Remediator™.

Lach recently attended the Pumper and Cleaner Environmental Expo International in Louisville, Ky., with the goal of picking up 10 new dealers. Holt said it was the first trade show Aero-Stream® has attended.

Holt believes his company has a bright future despite the poor economy. There are 21 million septic systems in the United States and 20 percent of them fail annually, he said.

“I would not say this is recession proof,” Holt said. “But you never know when your septic system is going to fail, and when it does, you have to replace it. And we believe we have something that is much more affordable than a $15,000 solution.”