Vail Valley Bizwatch: Blowwanger Firetool LLC
Vail, CO Colorado
Date opened: Fall 2011.
Owners: Tavius Sims, CEO; Roselyn Aring, treasurer.
What goods or services do you provide? We’ve developed a modern firetool called the Blowwanger that allows you to stoke and poke the fire with minimal effort. It works as a long bellow and a poking utensil combined to ignite and maintain your fire. We’ve incorporated the antiquated idea of a fire bellow into a 40-inch hollow shaft with a steel and copper poking accessory to allow you to whip up a fire in no time with your breath while staying away from the smoke, ash and flame. It’s a telescoping shaft that compacts down to half its size, has a handmade cork mouthpiece, 12 feet of multicolored paracord around the handle that’s useful when camping, survival matches and it’s build to last for years. It’s the ultimate fire accessory to get your fire going and to stay away from smoke, ash and flame.
What strategy do you use to differentiate your business from your competition? Well, while we’ve got several functional concepts that I’d like to bring to market that focus on value, innovation and smart thinking, the Blowwanger is a tool that should be in every household. With the downturn of the economy, use of wood as a fuel in homes alone is skyrocketing across the U.S., and fires can be stubborn, so we’re hoping to introduce this tool to the public that will add a new level of convenience for what, to some, can be an everyday inconvenience – starting a fire. It’s useful indoors, while camping or in the backyard.
What philosophy do you follow in dealing with your customers? What can your customers expect from you? Having grown up in the service and tourism industry, I’ve gotten superb exposure to guests from around the globe. I’ve seen what people want, and that’s value, quality, reliability and trust. I think you’ll find everyone of these qualities behind the Blowwanger name, from all facets of our business, customer service interactions and from every part and piece that go into our products. We’re proud of our product, the craftmanship that goes into them and that pride will blend over into knowing that folks from around the country and eventually the planet will be using our tools. We’ll stand up behind always and we intend for Blowwanger to represent these solid, unshakable qualities.
Tell us a little about your background, education and experience. I’ve got a bachelor’s in nutrition and food science from Colorado State University, but more importantly I’ve always had an undying entrepreneurial spirit since I was a kid. So many inventors give up through a lack of success, or they are just swayed by friends and family to quit and get real … and I just always had this hope that I’d come up with something that I could share with the world someday that would work. Most of my ideas have always come from my own personal needs, products that I knew I would use and that make sense from a functional stand point. Most of them have been created to make living in Colorado easier. The Blowwanger concept dates back to the Civil War, and the use of a bellow that isn’t big and bulky and expensive makes a lot of sense.
What is the most humorous thing that has happened at your business since you opened?
Well, there’s a lot of speculation about the name of our Blowwanger, and I get a lot of funny looks, but the product is almost endearing and you become attached to it like a good buddy. Sometimes in the past when I’ve gone camping and forgotten the Blowwanger, it’s like we’ve left a friend at home. You don’t want to leave home without it.
I was recently camping outside of Seattle, and I woke up at 6 a.m. to make coffee. We were without the Blowwanger, and I had to get down on my hands and knees to blow into the fire, and immediately I get a face full of smoke and ash and my eyes were burning intensely and that’s just not a fun way to wake up … and while drinking coffee that morning I vowed to myself and my camping partner never to forget the Blowwanger again. We were able to later that day hit up a Thift Store and ingenious MacGyver a temporary Blowwanger out of duct tape, bamboo and sofa foam, but since having returned to Colorado, I’ve invested a couple hundred hours into perfecting them just the way I’d always envisioned them to be.
“Blowwanger” came from a friend of ours from Queensland, Australia, who upon seeing it for the first time and quickly realizing how wonderful a tool it is, told me, “Tave, you oughtta call that thing the Blowwanger, and your gonna have to somehow fix on it a Pokewanger on the bottom and then I bet you could sell a bundle of ’em.”