In this episode of Art of the Kickstart, we interviewed Michael Berard, inventor and president of RocketFire. Light any charcoal or wood grill, fire pit, or fireplace in a matter of seconds with RocketFire. RocketFire propels three 2000ºF flames at a 60 degree spread to the center of your charcoal or wood bed for fast lighting and an even spread of flames.

Having learned valuable lessons from its first campaign, RocketFire is relaunching its improved fire starter torch on Kickstarter.

Topics Discussed and Key Crowdfunding Takeaways

  • How a childhood of tinkering created an entrepreneurial spirit.
  • Key lessons from a lengthy development process.
  • How canceling a Kickstarter campaign wasn’t a failure, but rather a step toward success.
  • Whether Berard thinks the average campaign creator should launch solo or enlist help.

Links

Sponsors

Art of the Kickstart is honored to be sponsored by The Gadget Flow, a product discovery platform that helps you discover, save, and buy awesome products. The Gadget Flow is the ultimate buyer’s guide for cool luxury gadgets and creative gifts. Click here to learn more and list your product – use coupon code ATOKK16 for 20% off!

Transcript

View this episode's transcript

Roy Morejon:
Welcome entrepreneurs and startups to Art of the Kickstart, the podcast that every entrepreneur needs to listen to before you launch. I’m your host, Roy Morejon, president and founder of Enventys Partners, the world’s only turnkey product launch company, that has helped over 2000 innovations successfully raise over $400 million in capital since 2010. Each week, I interview a crowdfunding success story, an inspirational entrepreneur, or a business expert in order to help you take your startup to the next level. This show would not be possible without our main sponsor ProductHype, a 300,000 member crowdfunding media site and newsletter, that’s generated millions of dollars in sales for over a thousand top-tier projects since 2017. Check out producthype.co, to subscribe to the weekly newsletter. Now, let’s get on with the show. Welcome to another edition of Art of the Kickstart. Today I am talking with Michael Berard, inventor and president of RocketFire. Michael, thank you so much for joining us today on Art of the Kickstart.

Michael Berard:
Hey, thanks, Roy, appreciate you having me.

Roy Morejon:
So I’m really excited about this product, one, because I love the outdoors, two, I have a fire pit that I use as often as possible, and three, I think this product is absolutely amazing for lots of other things outside of fire pits. But first, before I dive in, let’s talk to the audience about what your product is as if I’d never heard it before, what is RocketFire?

Michael Berard:
Sure, RocketFire is we’re saying that the fastest way to start a fire, it’s a fire starter that allows you to insert this particular starter into wood or charcoal and start it up in seconds.

Roy Morejon:
Amazing, so let’s talk about your inspiration around RocketFire, where did this all start?

Michael Berard:
Yeah, so a good, good buddy of mine and I, this was five years ago, we’re just sitting around, we were grilling. We were talking about the fact that it was difficult to start a charcoal grill, and he had burned up a couple of electric starters. We had used the chimney, we had used other blow torches. I was actually using a blow torch to start mine at that point. It was just, to us, it was crazy that there was nothing out there that was specifically designed and good at starting a fire. So that’s where it started, I’m a son of an engineer and fortunately received some of those skills. So I went back and drew some things up, and took it to a design firm, and five years later we have the RocketFire.

Roy Morejon:
Yeah, so let’s talk a little bit about your background, what led you down this path?

Michael Berard:
Let’s see, my background is in a number of different things. I’ve always tinkered with inventions going back until probably in my teens. My dad is an electrical engineer, so our first TV was put together by my dad over six months, he bought up a TV through Heathkit. So as a kid, we had to watch and wait as components of this TV came in each month before we could actually watch TV. So I was around my dad all the time watching him take things apart, put things back together, and I guess I got some of that. So over the years, I just would do some of the same things, and when I thought of something that made sense, I would try to figure out how we can make it better or make it.

Roy Morejon:
Nice, so I’m sure that was really frustrating for your mom, going through that process along with you all.

Michael Berard:
Yeah, well, I mean, when you’re married to an engineer, they’re measuring. In his case, he’s probably measured three times and cuts once, so everything took a lot longer than normal.

Roy Morejon:
Well, in talking about things that usually take a long time, let’s talk a little bit about the design side of things. I know you had mentioned when you were creating it, what did that process look like? How did you go about deciding what features, what materials to use, and then coming up with that final design that you have today?

Michael Berard:
Yeah, it’s a great question and that takes I think a long time. I mean, I’m sure there are inventions that people make that it happens right in the very first time. This took many, many different prototypes, and over five years. So we started… I think that for me, I have a full-time job or had a full-time job at that point, and so I needed some help from real designers. So I had drafted what I thought made sense, took it to these designers, and if you take things to designers, they’re going to… They’re incredibly creative and they’re going to give you lots of different choices. So we took a look at all the things that they came up with and what I came up with, and we started working toward a goal that we felt would be an efficient and good-looking product at that point.

Roy Morejon:
So what were some of those challenges that you encountered throughout designing this product?

Michael Berard:
Well, I think challenges come in a lot of different forms, one would be that everybody has their opinion. So I have a vision, and my vision is one way, and then you really have to find people that can take and run with your vision, as opposed to their vision. So along the way, there are lots of suggestions you’re getting from other people, or even the designers that you’re like, “Yeah, that’s great, but that’s not really what I want or how I see it.” The other thing is, I tried to find people that owned a grill or a fire pit, that understood what we needed, what was going to be safe, what was going to be quick, fast, and what we needed for that. So the challenges really come from distractions, and distractions mean that you’re spending more money.

Roy Morejon:
Indeed, so how’d you go about finding a manufacturer for the product?

Michael Berard:
Yeah, the designers I had, they actually had worked with a manufacturer in Taiwan and China, and they had worked on a torch, which was fantastic. So we already had a relationship with a factory, and we started working with that factory really four and a half years ago. They’ve been just fantastic, very patient. I’m not sure that just any factory would do what these folks have done, because we’ve just gone through, like I said, so many different changes, and additions, and subtractions from the unit. They’ve just been patient with us and worked through it.

Roy Morejon:
Do you think that they’ve worked with someone in your position as an entrepreneur startup founder, and that’s why they have so much patience?

Michael Berard:
That’s certainly possible, and I think that the other product that my design firm had worked on that was a torch, it was a small torch, like you would light up a cigar or something else with. I think they eventually, they sold their product to Walmart. But I do believe that it was more of a startup, so I would say yes.

Roy Morejon:
Nice, so this is your second go at launching this product, talk a little bit about the history there?

Michael Berard:
Yeah, it’s pretty interesting, and it can tell you… I mean, once you think you have it right, sometimes you don’t have it right. So we had what we thought was a great design for the product, we also, as far as fuel goes, we had a fuel source in Europe. The fuel itself that we were looking at, we felt like was very safe. I have a couple of small kids, we wanted to make sure it was safe for people around the person that was starting the torch or the RocketFire. So this particular fuel, it was a fuel that came in a form that… Very different than what we have here in the US, it was a foam fuel, and so you could turn the canister upside down and there would be no problem with that.

Michael Berard:
A lot of times, if you have propane and you turn it upside down, because it’s liquid, it’s it kind of squirts out of a torch. You end up with a flame thrower effect, and we didn’t want that. So we felt like we had the right fuel, the RocketFire had a hose on it, and we had kind of everything set up. We thought it was a good design, so we launched a Kickstarter campaign two years ago, and immediately when we launched it… We hadn’t hired a firm, we just did it ourselves. It was kind of a trial run. Immediately when we launched it, we figured out that the product wasn’t right. The feedback we were getting, which was good feedback, was about the fuel canister. People wanted to be able to get their fuel from Home Depot, or Lowe’s, or Ace Hardware, or Walmart.

Michael Berard:
This fuel that we had, we were going to have to provide. Also, the unit that we were selling was not as portable, had a hose on it, it hooked up to the canister. So immediately we figured that, okay, we got to make a decision here, do we accept that this is a failure and terminate the campaign, or do we just let it keep running? We had, at that point, had raised over 30,000, but it was obvious that the product just it was not right, so we terminated. We terminated the campaign at that point, and we went back to the drawing board.

Roy Morejon:
And here we are. So let’s talk a little bit about kind of that preparation work that you’ve been doing for the upcoming launch of this campaign, how has it differed?

Michael Berard:
Yeah, so we decided that we couldn’t do this ourselves. We just weren’t the experts in the kickstarting field, the crowdfunding field, so we looked out there, and kick the tires of a number of different firms that assist you in launching a campaign. We felt like that Enventys was the best firm on the market.

Roy Morejon:
I know the team here at Enventys Partners truly loves working on this innovation, we can’t wait to start using this for all of our cookouts this fall. I know the campaign is about to launch, I think once this podcast goes live, the campaign will be live. So for all listeners out there, make sure to check out the site with the link to the campaign for the RocketFire. What I did want to continue to ask you though, is I really liked the story element of the video, can you talk a little bit about the angle that you guys took, and what that process was like to really kind of hone in on the customer and the needs that you guys have adjusted the RocketFire around?

Michael Berard:
Sure, I think that for the video, of course, the video team we had were fantastic. That’s [Remedy 00:12:26] out of Durham, North Carolina, and I think they were also grillers, so they understand the grilling aspect and what’s needed for that. We wanted to center the video around people doing what people do, grill, being around a fire pit, anything that we can light that makes it fast and fun, that’s what we wanted to do. This product is fun, it’s powerful, it’s impressive. I mean, when you light it up, you hear it, it sounds like a rocket. So the people around you immediately turn their heads, and then they want to try it, it’s crazy. So at night it lights things up, and besides, it’s just quick. So we wanted to show that on the video, the people that were actually in the video that use it were so impressed that they were like, “Where do I sign up?” So it was pretty neat.

Roy Morejon:
That’s nice, fire, fun and fast, I love it. Well, Michael, this has been amazing. This is going to get us into our launch round, where I’m going to rapid fire some questions at you, you good to go?

Michael Berard:
Sure.

Roy Morejon:
Let’s fire away, so what inspired you to be an entrepreneur?

Michael Berard:
My mom was an entrepreneur, my grandfather was an entrepreneur, and my dad was basically a smaller time inventor and engineer. So I think that those people in my life were the inspiration.

Roy Morejon:
Beautiful, so if you could meet any entrepreneur throughout history, who would you want to have a campfire chat with?

Michael Berard:
Wow, there’s so many good ones. I read a book one time about Edison, I think Edison would be the one that I would like to sit down and talk with.

Roy Morejon:
Yeah, he’s a popular pick on the show, so what would be your first question for him?

Michael Berard:
I think maybe my first question would be about drive and failure. I mean, I think I’d like to know where he got his drive from, and maybe just about how he dealt with failure.

Roy Morejon:
Nice, so I know I always ask guests, “Hey, would you recommend a book to listeners?” But today I’m going to switch it up on you, so any podcasts that you would recommend to our listeners outside of Art of the Kickstart?

Michael Berard:
Yeah, so I guess when I started in this process five years ago, I must have listened to, I don’t know how many, it seems like a hundred hours of podcasts on crowdfunding. But my favorite was Khierstyn Ross, and she has a great… She had at that point, and probably still does, has a great podcast on crowdfunding.

Roy Morejon:
We love Khierstyn, she does amazing work for all of the crowdfunding community that’s out there. So big props to Khierstyn, definitely check out her podcast. What advice would you give to a new inventor, entrepreneur, that’s looking to launch their new product?

Michael Berard:
Don’t give up, just don’t give up. Most products or most ideas just never come to market, because people give up.

Roy Morejon:
Yep, indeed, so what do you think are the top three skills that you would say every entrepreneur needs to be successful?

Michael Berard:
Definitely perseverance, you have to have the drive, you have to be able to get through failure over and over again. Vision, I think vision, I think that people that are successful have vision, and you don’t always have to have this, but I think it’s good to have people skills, networking and people skills.

Roy Morejon:
Absolutely, now I know this is your second launch of the crowdfunding campaign, but very interested to hear your take on what does the future of crowdfunding look like?

Michael Berard:
I think it’s going to be great. I think that crowdfunding is going to continue to be really awesome, because it allows really fantastic ideas to come to light. I mean, there’s so many great ideas that are very difficult to fund on your own, and these backers are so… I mean, so generous and supportive that it really does allow these ideas that would never ever see the light of day to be funded and real.

Roy Morejon:
Absolutely. Well, Michael, this has been amazing. This is your opportunity to give our audience your pitch, tell people what you’re all about, where they should go, and why they should check you out?

Michael Berard:
Yeah, so we feel like we’ve got the best… We have finally developed the best RocketFire lighting tool on the market. I wanted to make sure that we had really great materials, this thing is stainless steel, and brass, and aluminum. It is fast, it’s 2000 degree flames that come out, it’s like 25,000 BTUs. It has a tip that can be removed, we’re going to have, and we already have invented other tips that are going to come in the future, so the tip can be unscrewed. You can use the straight flame for seared meat. But otherwise, the trifling tip that we have can be inserted into wood or charcoal, at the bottom of the wood or charcoal, inside the wood or charcoal to get it going faster than anything on the market. So I would say go to our website at www.rocketfiretorch.com and sign up for Kickstarter, which will be launching 16th of August.

Roy Morejon:
I can’t wait. Audience, thanks again for tuning in. Make sure to visit artofthekickstart.com for the notes, the transcript, links to the campaign once it goes live, as well as the prelaunch page. Of course, thank you to our crowdfunding podcast sponsors the Gadget Flow and ProductHype. Michael, thank you so much for joining us today on Art of the Kickstart.

Michael Berard:
Thanks, Roy. Appreciate all the backers.

Roy Morejon:
Thanks for tuning into another amazing episode of Art of the Kickstart, the show about building a better business, world, and life with crowdfunding. If you’ve enjoyed today’s episode, show us some love by giving us a great rating on your favorite listening station. Of course, make sure to visit artofthekickstart.com for all the previous episodes. If you need some help, that’s what we’re here for, make sure to send me an email to info@artofthekickstart.com. Thanks for tuning in, and I’ll see you on the next episode.