In 1996, 11-year-old Richie Stachowski went on a trip to Hawaii with his family. “I was surfing with my dad. When we dove under, there were so many beautiful things to see. I wished we could talk underwater,” said Stachowski. After finding out that there were no inventions for this kind of sub-aquatic communication, Stachowski started researching underwater acoustics and trying out prototypes in the family pool. Eventually, he came up with the Water Talkie – a conical device with a blow valve and plastic membrane that enables swimmers to talk with one another underwater from as far as 15 feet away.
Next, Stachowski went to New Jersey and pitched his idea to Toys“R”Us. At the end of the interview, he had an order for 50,000 units. With the help of his mom, Stachowski started a company called Short Stack LLC (named in honor of his love for pancakes) and went on to invent other successful pool toys. Then in 1999, at age 13, he sold his company to Wild Planet Toys. While it has been reported that Stachowski made millions through the deal, Wild Planet said that the sale was worth less than that but would not disclose the exact amount, only divulging that it was “a substantial amount of money.”.