X does not mark the spot 
for these Leaside entrepreneurs

vPictured (l to r) Eli Brown, Chris Neal, Jim Gardner, David Crichton, Peter Neal; (front) Paul Manley. Photo Ralph Uy.
Pictured (l to r) Eli Brown, Chris Neal, Jim Gardner, David Crichton, Peter Neal; (front) Paul Manley. Photo Ralph Uy.

How do you define an aha moment? A sudden insight into a problem that leads to a great invention.

• Ingvar Kamprad couldn’t fit a table he had purchased into his car – aha –Ikea is born!

• Surfer Nick Woodman wanted to take pictures of himself surfing – aha – he founded GoPro!

• Jan Koum couldn’t afford to call his father back home in Ukraine – aha – he launched Whatsapp!

But maybe you haven’t heard about a unique Leaside aha moment. Here’s that story.

Leaside friends Paul Manley and Peter Neal have been spending time together to support one another through challenging times. In the fall of 2019 Paul lost his wife Teresa to mental illness and Peter was dealing with his own challenges around depression. They found solace in being together, walking their dogs and talking. These occasions became their survival therapy.

As time went on, their conversations took on flights of fancy. The men started coming up with some crazy ideas to make each other laugh. Do you think anyone would buy charcoal filtered underwear? How about an ear wax candle? Or even better, what about a spa where you could have your nose hair braided? Maybe absorbent underwear that could help eliminate that annoying “pee” stain that shows up so often on men’s pants whenever they urinate. Wait a minute! That one may have merit.

Aha! Manley Underwear was born.

It is underwear equipped with the proprietary “Manley Barrier Apparel Technology” that creates an impenetrable shield to prevent any “pee dribble” from staining a gentleman’s trousers.

The “pee spot” problem is a real one. It is known as post-micturition dribbling (PMD) and is common among men of all ages. PMD is the name given to the problem when men experience an involuntary loss of urine immediately after they have finished passing urine, usually after leaving the toilet. It is easy to spot. The man returning to his seat with his t-shirt pulled down suspiciously low or his shirt untucked has probably just experienced a bout of PMD.

But how to bring this somewhat embarrassing aha idea to market? Assemble a larger group of Leaside guy-pals from a variety of business backgrounds to the group. There are now six partners, Paul Manley, Peter and Chris Neal, David Crichton, Eli Brown and Jim Gardner.

Photo Ralph Uy.
Photo Ralph Uy.

Meet the team

Paul Manley, who lives in Leaside with his two children, spent many years in the education field and is now focusing on building his namesake company. Says Manley, “Since the first-time man donned a loin cloth, he has been plagued by the inconvenient pee spot. I’m no anthropologist, but that seems like a long time.”

Many Leaside readers will recognize the name Peter Neal, who along with his brother Chris, founded Neal Brothers over 35 years ago. The brothers who started in their mother’s kitchen making croutons have successfully grown their company into one of the most highly regarded Canadian producers in the “good-for-you” snack category. The brothers certainly know how to bring a product to market.

David Crichton, co-founder of the multi-disciplinary advertising company Grip Limited, is widely considered to be one of Canada’s leading creative minds. Crichton has developed the advertising and digital media to support the brand and has been credited with coining the phrase “Presenting Pouch,” the material which houses the “Manley Barrier.” Recently launched at Yonge-Dundas Square, Manley Underwear features an out-of-home advertising campaign that cleverly uses humour to remind consumers that with Manley Underwear “A man can change his spots.”

Eli Brown is founder and CEO of Shine the Light On, a clothing company designed to raise awareness of mental health issues. Brown, who personally struggled with depression and anxiety during his university years, wanted to do something to end the shame and stigma that causes people to suffer in silence.

Jim Gardner is behind The Thoughtful Design Group, an enterprise which helps other companies strategically move their apparel ideas from concept to completion by assisting with trend and design analysis, product development and production logistics. While in university, Gardner founded Bruzer Sportsgear, an apparel company focused on collegiate apparel.

What’s next for the Manley crew? According to Statista, the underwear market in Canada has annual volumes more than $400 million and over $5 billion in the United States. Will this made-in-Leaside brand be the next to break through in the underwear category? Will this company whose origin story is so closely tied to mental health challenges help break the silence around mental health? Will this talented six-pack of founders be the next aha company? Watch this spot! manleyunderwear.com.

This article was guest contributed by Stan Flemming.