Today, Aaron Krause is known as the mastermind behind Shark Tank's greatest-ever success story.
His groundbreaking cleaning sponge, the Scrub Daddy, has grown into a US$170 million (NZ$245 million) company, with more than 25 million sold around the world.
His fans are so appreciative his office wall is crammed with "love letters" describing how the product changed their lives.
But it's a miracle the product ever saw the light of day — because for years on end, it sat in a box on a factory shelf collecting dust, where it was considered to be little more than a pile of junk.
Speaking to news.com.au recently, Mr Krause stressed his company had been the opposite of an "overnight success" — revealing his long road to entrepreneurship had taken a quarter of a century to achieve.
That journey began with washing neighbours' cars as an after-school job as a teen, before developing a fully-fledged car wash business after graduating from college.
In 1994, he accidentally damaged a car while polishing it, which he put down to a dodgy cleaning pad — so he invented his own using a special type of foam.
That product turned into a new, separate business — but manufacturing was messy work, and Mr Krause soon realised he was left with frustratingly grimy hands after spending his days fixing machines in his workshop.
Again, he solved that problem himself by inventing a stiff sponge out of special foam, which he dubbed the Scrub Daddy.
There was just one problem — the mechanics and engineers of the world weren't interested in buying a fancy hand sponge, and so for years on end, the Scrub Daddy sat on a shelf in a box in Mr Krause's office, literally labelled "scrap".
In 2008, the company was acquired by 3M — although it had no interest in the neglected sponges, which remained under Mr Krause's ownership.
Then, one day in 2011, Mr Krause's wife asked him to clean some mould which had grown on their garden furniture over the winter.
"I remembered that box of sponges in my office which I thought could maybe work and not scratch the furniture," he said.
"I thought I'd finally be able to use them, and then throw them out. But it was the greatest scrubbing tool I'd ever used.
"Way to miss the entire boat — it had been collecting dust for five years, but it was actually the greatest kitchen scrub in the world."
The father-of-two added a distinctive smiley face design, and took his product to the largest home shopping network in the US — and quickly realised he had a knack for TV.
He had also recently discovered a new favourite TV show — Shark Tank — and the rest was history.
In 2012, he went on the show, securing a $200,000 deal from Shark Lori Greiner and getting up to 40,000 hits on the Scrub Daddy website within an hour.
"It's unbelievable — I often think about the product back in the factory, just waiting for someone to discover it," he said.
"I'm a pack rat, I never throw anything away, because you never know when an idea might become valuable," he said, joking that his bad habit could have seen him appear on the US TV program Hoarders.
Now, Scrub Daddy sponges are sold around the globe and the company has expanded into a range of different cleaning products.
Mr Krause is currently visiting Australia to meet with representatives from Coles, Woolworths and IGA, with the sponges set to be sold in Aussie supermarkets soon for $5 a pop.