This year, Lonnie Johnson celebrates the 10th anniversary of his Super Soaker® water gun. When BLACK ENTERPRISE featured Johnson in November 1993, he had just begun to bask in the successes of his squirt gun eureka, thanks to a deal with top toy manufacturer, Larami Limited, who birthed Johnson’s brainchild. First-year sales from the Super Soaker® exceeded $200 million. Subsequent revenues have yet to equal those heights because of increased awareness of gun violence. Negative press hurt sales, and revenues from the water gun are down to $70 million annually. The Super Soaker® has undergone redevelopment and expansion. The 15 models now on the market cost $10-$50.
Johnson is still a successful entrepreneur. He is president of Johnson Research and Development Co. Inc., a venture that Johnson took past the conceptual phase once the royalties from the Super Soaker® came in. Based in Smyrna, Georgia, the company has expanded to focus on the development of environmental- and energy-related products in areas such as thermodynamics, fatigue analysis, and digital circuit design. In 1999, the company became the incubator for two environmental projects that developed into two new companies, Excellatron Solid State L.L.C. and Johnson Electro Mechanical Systems L.L.C., which receives project funding from Texaco Energy Systems. While we know Johnson for water gun technology, he also has 60 patents (20 pending) to his name, for everything from a thermionic generator to a wet diaper detector.