Thursday, March 22, 2018

ChiIL Mama's 2018 Housewares Show Favorites: Firebuggz Campfire Accessories

ChiIL Mama's ChiIL Picks List: Firebuggz Fun Favorites at International Home and Housewares Show Firebuggz campfire cooking supplies turn your ordinary campfire into a gourmet glamping experience.

FireBuggz was one of our favorites at The International Home and Housewares Show at McCormick Place earlier this month. Here at ChiIL Mama, we're avid, lifelong campers and our children love the outdoors too. Since we live in Chi, IL we've made sure our city kids went to nature camp from toddlerhood through their teen years, and we make a point to spend time where the trees are taller than the buildings. We're all huge fans of campfires too. In fact, my last name Kenaz is a Nordic rune meaning fire, passion, and creativity, the creative spark, and hearth fire. Firebuggz combine that creative spark with useful tools for campfires, back yard fire pits and more. We're hoping to review some of this playfully clever line of products on our next family foray into the woods.

We also love to support family run businesses, and Firebuggz has a good backstory. Firebuggz is a family-run company with Bob, his wife Tara, his daughter Kinsley and a Micah, who runs the warehouse and is like family. Before opening Firebuggz, they had a landscaping company in Minnesota.

Take a look at their products at their website,

How Firebuggz Got Started

Bob has always been an inventor, and his family dreamed of having a company that had the four F’s … Food, Family, Fun and Fellowship.

The company started in 2011 with their first product, the Fire Fishing Pole, which lets you hang a marshmallow over the fire. “It’s too much fun,” said Firebuggs founder Bob Hurt. “It should be illegal. Once you pick it up, even the crabbiest people will smile.” They started by assembling their products in the garage. They spent three weeks a month travelling around the country to craft shows and other direct to consumer shows. Driving their Ford Transit Connect van from New York to Wisconsin to Colorado, they camped at night, and the kids helped to assemble the products that they sold. The best part about travelling the county and camping is that they were able to get lots of feedback and ideas about their products. “On the road we met so many super nice people who were in the same boat as we were, trying to break into retail with our products. And since we were also camping we got to really understand our customers and get feedback. They told us what they wanted and we made it.” One of the most surprising things that they learned from other campers was the importance of offering a variety of colors. “When we first started we had only one color,” explained Hurt. “When we added more colors we tripled sales. Scaling Up and Going Retail Growing Firebuggz has been a smooth ride, and the biggest challenge has been getting the products on the shelves on time and ramping up production when they started to in higher volumes. Darren Schwagel is an engineer who did all the mock ups and cad drawings for the products. They found a factory that could assemble higher volumes of the products. They chose a smaller factory that has fewer people involved in assembling the products so there are fewer opportunities to make mistakes. In 2012 and 2013 they started to attend retail trade shows. The first one was the Atlanta Gift Market. At that point they needed packaging, because they started out binding their products with rubber bands. Dan Norquist, a designer from Minneapolis, created a lot of the packaging and retail displays that helped them grab the attention they needed in a retail environment. “We spent a lot of time making the packaging just right, following the seven second rule (where you have seven seconds to get someone’s attention),” said Hurt. “Nothing looked cheap, and there were lots of pictures of families and kids.” The first two big retail outlets that sold Firebuggz were Scheels and Crackerbarrel, who bought 8,000 units when they had a camping theme in their stores. Now they have them in 6,000 locations across the U.S. and also in Australia, Austria, Japan, Norway, Canada and Sweden. In November they sold their one millionth unit, and they have expanded their product line to include campfire cookers of all types, a heavy duty cast iron pie iron, a fire grill, Smogglez (to keep the smoke out of your eyes), the Snacklebox (to transport all the treats from the car to the fire).
They are dedicated to making products that help families have more fun outdoors.

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