Sara Grossman has spent the summer going to music festivals, but not as much for the music as for the notoriously grimy public restrooms. When Grossman stands in front of a row of port-a-potties, she has a message for the women in line: You don't have to sit down on that pee-covered seat.
A recent Stanford University grad and former staffer for Michelle Obama, Grossman is the inventor of Stand Up, a bright pink triangle that folds out, origami-style, into a funnel that lets women stand up over the toilet without worrying that they're going to accidentally dribble urine down a leg. In fact, women using the funnel are instructed to pee like men: facing the toilet.
It's not the first product of its kind, but Grossman hopes it may be the first to go mainstream—something you might eventually find at a drugstore or gas station rather than at REI.
"This is something you wouldn't be embarrassed to take out of your purse," she says. "I don't want people to feel embarrassed to be holding this. I want it to be something that they feel like is an accessory."
After a lifetime of wishing she could stand up at public restrooms—and overhearing other women continually bemoaning the germ-laden state of toilets while inside—she finally had an epiphany while hovering over a dirty airplane commode. "I thought, 'Should I just make this? I think about this every time."
She experimented to come up with something that would be compact enough to fit in a small purse, but long enough to actually work. "I tried a number of different designs before I finally got to the one where I didn't pee on the floor," she says. "It was also important that it was really aesthetically pleasing." The result, made from thick paper, is also biodegradable.
Eventually, Grossman may use a one-for-one model to bring Stand Up to places like India, where unsanitary public restrooms can be a frequent source of disease.
So far, she says, the reviews have been positive. "I think the most surprising feedback that I've gotten is that it's really fun to pee standing up," she says. "It's exhilarating. It's like a little adventure in the bathroom."