Longmont startup knows the nose can be key to health

LONGMONT — Dana Willett is looking for a world where people prepare for bed by brushing their teeth, washing their face and rinsing their nose.

The ResQRinse is a new product from Longmont startup SinOptim that makes nasal irrigation more comfortable and more likely to actually occur when prescribed. (Photo courtesy SinOptim).

Willett is president of SinOptim, which launched its patented first product, the ResQRinse, in March. The ResQRinse is a nasal rinse bottle that has innovated on traditional methods like the Neti Pot. While most nasal rinses require a saline solution to come out of both the nose and mouth, which can cause an uncomfortable gag reflex, the ResQRinse has a place to blow into the rinse bottle through the mouth, causing the soft palate to close off the throat and the saline to just go through the nose. The result is a more pleasant experience and hopefully more compliance from people who need to rinse because of allergies, sinusitis or surgery.

But Willett, a Longmont entrepreneur and athlete, said that everyone could benefit from a daily nasal rinse.

“Your sinus cavities are like your teeth,” she told BizWest. “They’re a signal of your health. Rinsing can reduce inflammation and clear debris that can cause infection.”

Clinical studies have backed up the science of nasal irrigation, showing it can be helpful for allergies like hay fever.

“Sinus rinsing is to the 21st century what dental care was to the 20th century,” Willett said. “Our environment and health habits are changing. There are applications in this for surgery, allergies and everyday health from pollutants in the air.”

Before Willett came on board to run operations selling and marketing the ResQRinse, it was invented by a Ear, Nose and Throat doctor, Stephen Chandler. Chandler was looking for a better way to get patients to actually comply with his recommendation of nasal irrigation, so he developed a prototype out of various surgical tubing and 3D printing. Eventually, the founders tapped Willett as president of the company. Chandler stayed on board as the company’s medical adviser and partner and the day-to-day run by Willett and two other women who manage operations and e-commerce for SinOptim.

Patients using the ResQRinse place the nose piece against their nostril and blow through the mouthpiece and squeeze the bottle. Blowing closes the soft palate, which allows the saline solution to stay in their sinus cavity and come out their other nostril, rather than go into their throat and cause an uncomfortable gag reflex. (Photo courtesy SinOptim.)

Prior to coming on board, Willett had a background in project management and marketing in both corporate and startup environments. Willett managed the 303 Media Group, which produced 303 Triathlon and 303 Cycling, before selling the media group earlier this year to focus on SinOptim.

Willett’s history as a triathlete has led SinOptim’s marketing strategy for the ResQRinse, which is not only looking at its allergy and everyday uses, but for what it can mean to opening up airways and easing breathing in athletes. Willett said she herself uses it before swimming to open her airways and after to pick up any debris she may have picked up while swimming in Boulder Reservoir.

Since the company’s soft launch in March, Willett says ResQRinse has sold about 5,000 units through Amazon, its website and wholesale to distributors, medical offices and partners. A bottle retails for $18.99, a month-long supply of packets — which contain powdered sodium and bicarbonate for a smoother, pain-free rinse — retails for $14.99. Consumers can also purchase a complete kit for $49.99, which contains a bottle, three months of rinse packets and a bottle brush. Willett recommends replacing a bottle every three months, much like how you would replace your toothbrush.

Looking ahead, SinOptim is looking at partnering with doctor’s offices and the military to get more people using the new form of nasal irrigation. The device can help from clearing dust from the nose to helping patients with COPD and sleep apnea.

A major goal for SinOptim, Willett said, would be to get the ResQRinse retailing in major pharmacy chains like Walgreens or CVS, or even to be on Shark Tank.

But success goes beyond landing in a major retailer. Willett said she is looking to change the culture of how society thinks of nasal health.

“I want to see people be aware of this and incorporate this,” she said.

Willett shared a story of a 13-year-old boy with sinus inflammation so severe he couldn’t taste his food, which led to him not eating and not being at a healthy weight. After daily use of the ResQRinse, he managed to enjoy eating again and gained eight pounds.

“More stories like that,” Willett said, “would feel like success.”