Portable Campfire with high heat output – Josh Thurmond of LavaBox

INTERVIEW VIDEO (Length – 1:06:13)


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Josh Thurmond, designer and founder of LavaBox shares how his background as a professional outdoor expeditions guide allowed him to understand what’s missing with existing campfire solutions and inspired him to build something smaller, easily portable, with high heat output. LavaBox has gained good traction in the market. Josh talks about distribution strategy, bringing new products in the market, and the importance of selling.

Episode Summary

Josh Thurmond of LavaBox, makers of the portable Lava Box campfire solution. Thurmond, a former professional guide and law enforcement officer, envisioned a portable campfire solution that could outperform existing options. He drew inspiration from his own outdoor experiences and was determined to create a product that met his high standards. Thurmond’s early beginnings included building prototypes in his garage and selling the first thousand units online. He then sought manufacturing help when his capacity was surpassed. Thurmond also discusses the importance of finding the right partners and connections, preferring to build relationships with small retailers instead of working with large distributors. He has faced various challenges, such as growing competition and marketing expenses, but has emphasized the importance of innovation, teamwork, and staying true to one’s core values. Despite previous setbacks, including an unsuccessful Shark Tank pitch, Thurmond has seen impressive sales growth and plans to expand his product line and collaborate with influencers. He also emphasizes the importance of due diligence and avoiding hasty decisions, as he has learned through his past experiences.

  • 00:00:00 In this section of the Treptalks YouTube video, host Sushant interviews Josh Thurmond, the founder of Love Lav Box, makers of a portable campfire solution. Before starting his business, Josh worked as a professional guide leading outdoor expeditions across the world, then transitioned into law enforcement. Feeling burnt out, he desired a change and was inspired by YouTube videos of people camping to create a product that captured the outdoor experience. Josh’s entrepreneurial journey included failures and learning experiences, with previous product ideas such as a software and a presentation company not succeeding. Despite these setbacks, he persisted and, at the age of 45, launched Lava Box. Josh reflects that every failure provides valuable lessons that contribute to future success.
  • 00:05:00 In this section of the YouTube video titled “Josh Thurmond”, the founder shares the inspiration behind the creation of his product, the Lava Box. The idea came to him during a cold camping trip in Colorado, where he and his friends were disappointed with the performance of their existing fire pit. Determined to create something more compact and effective, Thurmond went home and built seven prototypes, eventually landing on the Lava Box design. Despite little market research, he felt confident in the product’s uniqueness due to its small size and high heat output (200,000 BTUs) compared to other portable campfires. Thurmond’s personal experience in the camping industry and understanding of the market were key factors in his decision to bring the Lava Box to market. The product’s design, which focuses on being small, light, indestructible, and putting out a big flame, was also crucial to its appeal. Thurmond believes that for a product to sell, it needs to not only function well but also have an attractive design. While the exact details of how he created the first prototypes were not provided in the excerpt, it’s clear that he was committed to turning his idea into a reality.
  • 00:10:00 In this section of the YouTube video titled “Josh Thurmond,” the entrepreneur shares his experience of building the first thousand units of his product, a fire-resistant camping mat, in his garage. He describes how he handmade each item and sold them online, crediting this approach for keeping costs low and enabling him to meet market standards. When demand surpassed his capacity to produce them manually, Josh recommends assessing one’s situation before deciding to take this route. He admits to using aggressive marketing techniques, such as approaching Facebook groups and administrators to showcase his product until banned. He emphasizes the importance of authenticity and an entrepreneurial spirit in the early stages, as well as the need for hard work. Around eight months in, he sought the help of a manufacturing company to scale his business when resources became insufficient for hand-production.
  • 00:15:00 In this section of the YouTube video titled “Josh Thurmond,” the speaker discusses his experience with transitioning his business from making products himself to outsourcing manufacturing and assembly. He emphasizes the importance of ensuring product safety and a polished look, which led him to Alibaba and other resources for sourcing materials from overseas. He shares that he faced challenges in finding manufacturers in the US to produce his boxes, leading him to collaborate with manufacturers overseas instead. This decision was driven by his desire to employ people and have a physical business, despite the tariffs associated with importing parts. He also mentions the benefits of using Alibaba’s Request for Proposal (RFP) system for connecting with manufacturers.
  • 00:20:00 In this section of the YouTube video titled “Josh Thurmond,” the speaker discusses the importance of connecting with the right person or company for business success. He shares his personal experience of interviewing potential partners and the significance of finding alignment with a shared goal. When asked about his sales background, the speaker admits being a salesman type of person but not finding pleasure in sales roles. He believes entrepreneurs who cannot sell their ideas struggle and emphasizes the need to live and sell the product or idea constantly. The speaker’s current focus is on broadening their retail and reseller space in their third year of business.
  • 00:25:00 In this section of the YouTube video titled “Josh Thurmond,” the speaker discusses his business strategy focusing on creating personal relationships with small mom-and-pop stores instead of working with big distributors and retailers. He shares how his competitor went after the biggest stores first and copied his product, but he chose to grow incrementally to build a better product and stay attuned to the market. The speaker explains that winning over consumers and creating a lifestyle around the product are essential to maintaining competitive advantage over corporate knockoffs. He stresses the importance of staying focused on one’s business and not spending too much time worrying about competitors.
  • 00:30:00 In this section of the YouTube video titled “Josh Thurmond,” the entrepreneur discusses his business experiences and future plans. He mentions weathering a competitive storm early on and the validation it brought. He also talks about expanding his product line to cater to the camping lifestyle, specifically a patent-pending propane tank cover. They plan to bring it to larger retailers, including Walmart and Rona. While emphasizing the importance of innovation, Josh shares how they previously overspent on new products and now aim to focus on their successful dual burner system, the Trident. He then opens up about enjoying and learning the most from marketing efforts to acquire customers, although acknowledging its costs.
  • 00:35:00 In this section of the YouTube video titled “Josh Thurmond,” the entrepreneur discusses his marketing strategies for selling a product, focusing on the importance of knowing the customer and understanding their demographics. He shares how he invested in analytical tools to identify customer segments and demographics, allowing him to tailor marketing efforts effectively. He encourages other entrepreneurs to prioritize this information, as it can provide a significant advantage. The entrepreneur also mentions experimenting with new marketing channels, including television, although the data and results are not yet clear. He believes that television can validate a product and increase sales, making it a worthwhile investment despite the challenges in measuring the direct attribution to sales.
  • 00:40:00 In this section of the YouTube video titled “Josh Thurmond,” the speaker discusses his experience with influencer marketing and the importance of collaborating with influencers in growing a business. He manages a roster of around 30 influencers and recognizes the importance of understanding the influencer marketing landscape as it can be unpredictable. He highlights the diverse range of influencers, from professionals to those still learning the ropes. Despite the challenges, he finds it rewarding to work with influencers and help them grow while ensuring they are paid appropriately. The speaker also mentions setting standards for influencer collaborations based on their reach and the value proposition of the product. He usually requires at least 20,000 Instagram followers before offering a partnership. The speaker briefly touches upon his Shark Tank appearance but moves on to other topics.
  • 00:45:00 In this section of the YouTube video titled “Josh Thurmond,” the entrepreneur shares his experience of applying for and not making it onto Shark Tank in his first attempt. He describes the application process as serious, requiring a lot of paperwork and hustle, with only a few hundred entrepreneurs airing out of the initial 60,000 applicants each year. Despite not making it the first year, Josh was encouraged to reapply, and they appreciated his product and business potential. With impressive growth in sales, he eventually succeeded in getting on the show, emphasizing that it’s not an easy process and that Shark Tank is looking for both legitimate businesses and a certain television-friendly personality. Josh also talks about maintaining their fulfillment and shipping in-house for now, emphasizing the importance of saving costs on nuts and bolts to afford warehouse space and scaling with Shopify.
  • 00:50:00 In this section of the YouTube video titled “Josh Thurmond,” the entrepreneur discusses his experience using Shopify for his business, the integration with the company’s shipping situation, and the need to move off the platform soon. He then shares the composition of his team, which is lean and includes operations, building and packing crew, an art department, accounting staff, and an assembly worker with Down syndrome named Kevin Wagner. Thurmond emphasizes the importance of research for entrepreneurs and shares his frustrating experiences of not researching enough before making costly mistakes, such as testing for product sales and investing in an inflight magazine ad campaign. Thurmond concludes by stressing the importance of doing one’s due diligence, focusing on “slow and steady wins the race,” and avoiding rushing inventory or product launches.
  • 00:55:00 In this section of the YouTube video titled “Josh Thurmond,” the entrepreneur and innovator discuss two major mistakes he’s made in his business journey and advises other entrepreneurs to avoid them. The first mistake is neglecting one’s core values and losing focus on why they started the business in the first place. He warns that this can lead to alienation from family, team, and customers. The second mistake is ignoring the importance of team members and customers, stating that they are the ones who make the business successful. He emphasizes the significance of taking care of them and showing appreciation. Thurmond recommends staying true to oneself and investing time in one’s team and customers to maintain productivity and longevity in business.
  • 01:00:00 In this section of the YouTube video titled “Josh Thurmond,” the speaker reflects on the advancements of AI technology and its ability to predict and understand human behaviors. He expresses excitement about the potential of this technology, but also shares concerns about privacy and lack of privacy. Shopify is recommended as a useful business tool, particularly for smaller businesses. The speaker also shares his admiration for entrepreneur Rod, who runs various companies and embodies a positive attitude towards life and business. The best business advice he has received or would give to entrepreneurs is to write down goals and make them concrete in order to bring them to life.
  • 01:05:00 In this section of the YouTube video titled “Josh Thurmond,” the guest, Josh Thurmond, wraps up the interview by expressing his gratitude for the opportunity to share his story and business advice. He recommends the book “Winning Friends and Influencing People”and provides several ways to check out his product, including Fiverr and his social media channels on Instagram and YouTube. Thurmond emphasizes the value of his experiences in entrepreneurship and is confident that his story will inspire other entrepreneurs. The interviewer expresses appreciation for Thurmond’s time and expertise.

People & Resources Mentioned in the Episode

  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Shopify
  • Canva


What You’ll Learn

Interview with Josh Thurmond of LavaBox

[00:00:08] Introduction to TrepTalks
[00:00:24] Welcoming Josh Thurmond, Founder of Lavabox Portable Campfire
[00:00:48] Opening Remarks and Gratitude
[00:00:52] Josh Thurmond expresses his excitement and gratitude
[00:00:56] Introduction to Lavabox and Background Discussion
[00:01:14] Josh’s Previous Careers: Professional Guide and Law Enforcement
[00:01:58] Transition to Entrepreneurship: From Guide to Product Inventor
[00:02:35] Inspirations from Outdoor Activities and Entrepreneurial Journey
[00:03:16] Developing Adaptive Equipment and Moving to the National Sports Center for the Disabled
[00:11:47] Starting Lean: Creating the Minimum Viable Product
[00:12:17] Guerrilla Marketing Tactics: Getting the First Sale
[00:14:06] Transitioning to Manufacturing: Challenges and Solutions
[00:15:12] Importance of Safety and Product Professionalism
[00:16:41] Global Sourcing Strategy: Leveraging Alibaba and Connections
[00:18:42] Building Relationships with Overseas Manufacturers
[00:21:00] The Entrepreneur’s Role: Living and Selling the Lifestyle
[00:24:19] Strategic Growth: Focusing on Personal Relationships and Small Retailers
[00:27:06] Introduction and Copycat Challenge
[00:27:53] Maintaining Competitive Advantage
[00:29:12] Building a Brand Lifestyle
[00:30:32] Product Line Expansion and Innovations
[00:31:18] Adding a Propane Tank Cover to Product Line
[00:31:46] Caution in Product Expansion
[00:34:43] Marketing Strategies and Customer Acquisition
[00:40:02] Utilizing Influencers and Venturing into TV Advertising
[00:41:43] Challenges in Influencer Marketing
[00:42:00] Personal Impact of Camping Content
[00:42:32] Deep Connection with Influencers
[00:42:48] Aspirational Nature of Influencers
[00:43:12] Setting Standards for Collaboration
[00:43:50] Shark Tank Experience
[00:45:00] Motivations and Exposure
[00:45:26] Fulfillment and Shipping Worldwide
[00:48:45] In-House Shipping vs. Third-Party Logistics
[00:50:27] Overview of the Team
[00:52:23] Lessons from Mistakes and Failures
[00:55:32] Balancing Work and Personal Life
[00:56:30] Importance of Essential Aspects in Entrepreneurial Journey
[00:57:00] Challenges and Real Work in Entrepreneurship
[00:57:48] Rapid Fire Segment Introduction
[00:57:55] Book Recommendations for Entrepreneurs
[00:59:16] Exciting Innovation in AI-Generated Content
[01:01:19] Recommended Business and Productivity Tools
[01:02:40] Inspirational Entrepreneur and Final Business Advice

Rapid Fire

In this segment, the guest will answer a few questions quickly in one or two sentences.

Josh Thurmond of LavaBox

  1. Book recommendation that you would make to entrepreneurs or business professionals (Response:)
  2. An innovative product or idea in the current e-commerce retail or tech landscape that you feel excited about (Response: Artificial Intelligence)
  3. A business or productivity tool or software that you would recommend/Productivity Tip. (Response: Shopify, Canva)
  4. A startup or business (in ecommerce, retail, or tech) that you think is currently doing great things. (Response🙂
  5. A peer entrepreneur or businessperson whom you look up to or someone who inspires you (Response:)
  6. One networking tip or building and sustaining valuable professional relationships.
  7. Best business advice you ever received (Response:  Write it down)

Interview Transcript

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Hey there entrepreneurs. My name is Sushant and welcome to TrepTalks. This is the show where I interview successful e commerce entrepreneurs, business executives, and thought leaders and ask them questions about their business story and also dive deep into some of the strategies and tactics that they have used to start and grow their businesses.

And today I’m really excited to welcome Josh Thurmond to the show. Josh is the founder of Lavabox Portable Campfire. Lavabox is a portable campfire solution designed for outdoor enthusiasts seeking a hassle free and safe way to have a fire anytime. And today I’m going to ask Josh a few questions about his entrepreneur journey and some of the strategies and tactics that he has used to start and grow his business.

So Josh, thank you so much for joining me today at TrepTalks, really appreciate your

Josh Thurmond of LavaBox: time. I’m so happy to be here. Thank you for having me on. I appreciate it.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Thank you. So interesting product. [00:01:00] Um, I’m curious to know a little bit, maybe we can start off with your background. What were you doing before starting this business and what really motivated you to go the entrepreneur entrepreneurial route?

Josh Thurmond of LavaBox: Sure. Sure. So, um, I like a lot of entrepreneurs. I’ve had a kind of circuit to it as route to get here. Um, you know, for many years, I worked as a professional guide, uh, taking people down the river hunting, uh, actually a lot of up in your neck of the woods, Alaska, all over the United States and even around the world, uh, leading caving expeditions, and So all kinds of outdoor sports, but then I, uh, I needed to make a little money.

So I changed jobs, went back to school and I actually started working in law enforcement. And for a number of years, I worked at the Denver district attorney’s office here in Denver. Uh, my wife is a forensic scientist, so we worked side by side fighting crime. And uh, and then, uh, uh, I got a little burned out.

I’ll be honest. I was tired of, [00:02:00] uh, it’s, I, you know, I, I used to say, I see people on their very worst day. And, uh, I really wanted to do something that didn’t feel like that all the time. And so, and of course you get a taste of taking people on, on their peak experiences or peak life experiences, like, like when you’re guiding, that’s something that you never forget you if you’re, you’ve been riding and rafting before.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: I have not. Um, I wish I, I definitely want to do more of that, but yeah, I’ve not been a very natural person in the past, but I, I mean, it’s interesting. I’ve been, I’ve been seeing a lot of YouTube videos of people camping and that has kind of motivated me to do that.

Josh Thurmond of LavaBox: Gain the bug. Um, well, you know, like rafting is definitely something that people say, man, I was the best thing I ever did in my whole life.

And, uh, I’ve always wanted to capture that feeling in a bottle. And, uh, So I kind of, you know, I say I got burned out a little bit and I said, you know, I want to do something else. And so I actually moved to the national sports center for the disabled. Here in Colorado, it’s the largest adaptive sports program in the world, at least the skiing side of it is.

[00:03:00] And there I was a program director for a number of years. And that’s actually when I sat, uh, I also sat on the board for the Colorado whitewater association. I’m a big whitewater kayaker, of course, and rafting. And uh, this is what brought me to this place where I started making products. I was making adaptive equipment for people with disabilities.

Um, always been a big tinker and I’ve always made a bunch of stuff. I’ve even tried to launch a couple of other products. Um, but this was, uh, and like a lot of entrepreneurs, I’ve failed a few times, um, many times, but, uh, get back up and, uh, Finally, I, I struck something that I, even when I, I first made it, I said, when I finished the prototypes, I told my wife, I said, this is the one that has legs.

So I’m 40. I, I invented LavaBox. I was 45. So, you know, it took a, it took a little while to get there, but I’m, I’m here now.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: I mean, that’s that’s the entrepreneurial journey, right? I don’t, I think it’s very rare that somebody gets it right the first time because there is a learning process like entrepreneurship is not like [00:04:00] one skill you have.

You have so many different things you have to get right like even if you get the product right and you don’t get the sales or the marketing or you know, go to market right then it’s not going to be successful so it’s definitely you know. Every time you try something new, it fails, you know, in the process, you learn it.

And I think, you know, it becomes kind of the, the factor that helps you succeed,

Josh Thurmond of LavaBox: uh, eventually. No, I think you’re exactly right. That was, um, you know, I, and I, it was a diverse set of products, um, that I kind of worked on over the years. Uh, one was a piece of software, um, right before the advent of the, of the internet, uh, and that, and actually the internet kind of tanked the idea of that software, uh, that was a couple of other projects that I worked on that didn’t make it another company that, uh.

Used, um, some proprietary, uh, presentation software and we were building presentations. Couldn’t quite get that off the ground. And I was still working of course, full time while I was trying to make all of those things happen. And, uh, but this was the one I said, you know, I’ve never [00:05:00] done a, just a product launch.

Let’s try it. And I really felt confident that it was that LavaBox was the right one. And I was right.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: And what made you feel confident? Like, were there not similar products like this in the market already? I mean, I know you were kind of in touch with the people who are, I mean, because you were yourself a camper and you were a guide and you were taking people out there.

So you probably knew the need and the market and what people were looking for. Um, but had you done any market research to see if this kind of product already exists? Uh, maybe you can talk a little bit about your product and how it’s kind of different from what’s, what else is in the

Josh Thurmond of LavaBox: market. Sure. So just the advent of the product, um, the Genesis was a camping trip.

Uh, last one of our last raft trips of the year, of course in Colorado, just like in Toronto, by the time it gets to October, things are getting pretty cold and uh, it was a cold night and uh, we were all having fun and [00:06:00] relaxing, but the, we were so cold from being on the river and we had kind of one of those, the fire pits that are already on the market.

And it just didn’t put out a whole lot of heat and put out a lot of fire. And I said, all right, I’m going to, maybe there was a few beers involved. I can’t say, uh, but we had a couple of beers and I said, you know, I’m going to make something better. Um, and it has to be something that actually is a lot more compact.

Uh, and we, and we, that was really the goal was to say, I want something I could put on my raft or I can throw it in the back of my truck. It’s not this big, giant, you know, kind of cumbersome thing. And, uh, yeah, so I went home and I built seven prototypes. Number seven was the classic inside the classic ammo can people have been building fires inside of ammo cans and using ammo cans for everything for a long, long time.

But, uh, we were really the first to bring something like that to the market. And that’s why I’m pushing the patent. The whole, that whole process has gone through. So that’s, that was definitely the, the, the origin of the story of the lava box. What makes it different is truly the size. [00:07:00] So most portable, uh, campfires out there and I’ll put portable and air clothes, cause a lot of them are, are big, uh, 37 pounds, 27 pounds.

Um, and they all range from about 35, 000 British thermal units, BTUs up to about 65, 000 BTUs. So, uh, I wanted to bring something to the market that was more like 200, 000 BTUs. Um, and so I said, how do we, you know, how do we maximize, um, the flame height, but keep it inside of the constraints of the Canadian and the U S, um, uh, fire fire bands.

You know, we have a lot of fire bands now. It’s pretty commonplace and especially in the West and of course, in Canada. And so now we’re seeing, we’re seeing like, what’s this, what’s, what would be the right transition to make this work for us has to be small. I wrote it all down and said, it has to be small.

It has to be, you know, it has to be light, has to be indestructible. And it has to put on a big flame that can keep us safe. It’s [00:08:00] warm, all those things. So that’s how I knew is that I, I, I did very little market research and we really honest with you. Um, it was, you know, anecdotal, uh, you know, and very personal to me.

Um, just like you said, I, I know the market very well and I, and I would tell the entrepreneurs to Probably not go far afield of your own personal expertise, um, or things that you’re really familiar with. I, I definitely have tried to go outside of my scope. Um, especially things that I really feel like I know very well and I failed.

I don’t know that’s the exact reason I failed, but it’s definitely might have been part of part of the story. Uh, and so I would say that, that, um, I knew it was a good product because I knew it was something that was definitely different. Uh, and I’ll tell you that I think that things don’t sell unless they’re, they look good.

They have to be vogue and sexy and feel right and be, you know, kind of a classic design in a lot of ways. Um, you know, you design a new [00:09:00] motorcycle, you don’t, you don’t, you know, there are rules, right? You can, you can go pretty wild on a concept vehicle, but you still have to hit certain lines. There’s, you know, obviously our eyes enjoy certain things.

I knew that the lava box had all the static pieces that. Made it interesting to us and made it sexy and familiar. And, uh, and that’s how I knew it was something that was going to be great. And it started small though. Don’t get me wrong. We didn’t just look, I’m sure we’ll get to it. We just jump on the scene and sell, you know, 10, 000

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: units.

So no, no, for sure. I mean, I’m, I’m very curious to know like the, the different prototypes that you, I, so you mentioned that you wrote down all the different features, which I think is a great way of doing it. Like, you know, making a list of like your ideal product and starting there. Right. And. Did you kind of, you know, pull things together yourself, you know, the box and, you know, try to put that, um, as a prototype yourself?

Or is that something that you had the list of features and then [00:10:00] you kind of went out there and hire some sort of an expert or a manufacturing company and have them build the prototype? What was kind of

Josh Thurmond of LavaBox: Yeah. Yeah. I built the first thousand units myself by hand in my garage. Whoa. Not everybody can do that.

Um, let’s be fair, you know, and I, and I don’t know that you have to do it that way, but of course it kept me incredibly lean. Uh, you know, I was able to produce a product that met a standard in the market that people saw value, but I, but it was something that I could keep the costs, you know, way, way down, being able to hand make each one.

Do I recommend that, that route? I don’t know. I think that everybody has to assess their situation, um, decide if that’s something they can actually pull off. I, you know, I was completely inundated. I mean, there was a, you know, we started off, sold 40 in two weeks. I put a website up and just [00:11:00] started selling.

They went crazy. And nobody even knew about the product. I wasn’t doing any marketing. There was nothing happening. It was just a couple people talking. And then it went way outside of my, like, friends and family circle. And then it, you know, obviously now it’s, you know, we’re getting, we get You know, people wanting the product from Australia to Indonesia, you know, Middle East, Africa, everywhere.

So, uh, yeah, so there’s that. And I, you know, I attribute some of that, you know, to, to some shark tank reach, but that was happened before shark tank. People saw the product on, you know, we, we live in a different world, right. And we live in a place where YouTube can make that happen. And so, uh, yeah, I was not anticipating that, but that was really the, the part of, of what made the startup.

Feasible was that was that ability to build them hand make them in my garage?

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: No, I think I think that meets a lot of the criteria of lean startup, right? Like you That was kind of your minimum viable product Right, and you were able to save [00:12:00] costs and you were able to see what what customers like about it or don’t like about it so you basically created these items in your garage and you took photos you put it up on your e commerce website and And people just showed up.

Like, can you share a little bit about, you know, how you got your first sale? Yeah,

Josh Thurmond of LavaBox: I’ll, I’ll tell you a little bit about that. Um, and I know it’s just me and you watching this. No, I’m kidding. I’ll tell some secrets. I definitely went out and did a lot of guerrilla marketing. Now I would go on to, and I still do, um, I would go on to Facebook pages of people who liked camping or, you know, or doing RVing or, you know, overland, all those things.

And I went on and showed the product and I pushed and pushed until they threw me off, to be totally honest. Okay. Um, I, and you know, it’s, uh, sometimes that’s what it takes. You gotta go out and make the sale. And so, um, and there’s a. Let’s, there’s a reality about the whole thing is that there’s a lot of heart here too.

I, I really want, there’s [00:13:00] an authenticity here that I, I really wanna help, you know, prevent wildfires. So there’s this piece of it that appeals to people. There is a, a, um, philanthropic bend to the whole thing. Okay. Um, but, uh, to be out there and be super scrappy was, was absolutely necessary. Uh, like I said, I would go on, I’d go on a Facebook page until the admin would throw me off.

Hmm. I’d go onto this. You know, all different kinds of Jack groups. So they said, you can’t sell stuff here unless you pay us. So I pushed and pushed and pushed until they, you know, and the, and the, and the, the people who are consuming that information were loving it. It was just the admins that were like, you can’t do that.

Or you need to pay us or that sort of thing. So I would do it as far as they’d let me do it. Um, and of course there was also a lot of like, Hey, if you let me show it, I’ll send you a product. Um, this may be not stuff people talk about, but that’s in real in the real world. I think that’s what really happens is you’re talking to people and helping them see the value.

And, you know, [00:14:00] maybe you are doing favors for people to get it going. And I don’t, I just not, I don’t think it’s too shifty. I think it’s the reality. No,

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: I think, I think that’s how most people do it. I don’t think it’s, uh, I mean, entrepreneurship, especially in the beginning, you have to, you have to really take that gorilla marketing kind of an approach and, um, and, and go knock every door sell until they kick you out of there.

So I think, I think it does take that to, to get a business going. I don’t think there’s like, um, the reality of entrepreneurship is not very glamorous, at least in the beginning. I

Josh Thurmond of LavaBox: don’t think so. I think people want it to be, but it’s not. So at one point,

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: a lot of hard work for sure. Um, at what point did you transition to, um, getting a manufacturer and kind of scaling the business?

Josh Thurmond of LavaBox: Yeah, that was, um, about eight months in. So, uh, just to let you know how lean it was, we had no money. You know, [00:15:00] this was very, very lean startup. Um, it was, you know, I was still working full time. And about eight months in, I started, you know, really turn things around financially. And that’s when I realized I had to bring in manufacturers.

Um, one of the critical pieces for us was that there was a safety, a lot of safety concerns around the, the, the actual elements of the, of the product. I wanted to make sure it was food safe and, you know, something that people felt comfortable with and that had, uh, of course a very polished professional look, um, and so making that transition was really important and people always, you know, kind of.

But I will tell you that, that I found that Alibaba and a bunch of other pieces are really useful to me. We now pull steel from Vietnam, uh, some from India and some from China. And then we do all the assembly in the U S so like most companies in the U S maybe all have products, you know, parts of being pulled from all over the world and then assembly is happening [00:16:00] here.

So I really decided within about seven, eight months that we had to figure out a way I couldn’t, first of all, my hands were killing me. I was so tired from making the boxes and I was covered in paint all the time. Powder coat. Uh, no one wanted to loan me their basement anymore to paint in their basement because it was getting, you know, winter months, I had to go through the winter painting, uh, which sounds crazy.

I know, but, uh, exciting every box we had to strip at paint. There was a paint we couldn’t use. It wasn’t fire retardant, so we had to use it. I had to strip all the boxes. I was tough. Um, but then, yeah, we, I realized that I could pull, pull products from all over the world. Or at least pull parts from all over the world and then complete the products here.

And then it became kind of a mission. I thought I’d be, if I’m being honest, I, I decided then that I wanted to be able to employ people and have. A business. Cause I can, you know, everybody can make, you can have a whole product made overseas. Yeah. You’re going to take a, you’re going to get dinged on tariffs, but you could [00:17:00] truly have the entire thing as everybody knows made overseas.

And that’s totally something everybody does. Uh, but I wanted to pull in employees. I wanted people to actually make stuff, put their hands on stuff. And so we, we went that route. Um, I can’t guarantee it’s going to always be like that, but that was, that’s what we had to do. And I, and I’ve been really lucky to, to have, um, great connections that kind of sprang forth from Alibaba, from a bunch of people in Vietnam.

Uh, and it really worked out well. So that meant talking to, let me get, I talked to. Probably a thousand people. Like, so I tried to manufacture the boxes. This is actually pretty interesting. I tried to have the actual steel from the boxes made here in the U S and I got turned down by everyone. I mean, everyone, I talked to probably 300 or more.

People trying to get them to build the box for me. No one would build it. Uh, if they did want to build it, they wanted like, you know, 50, 000 pieces. Right. You know, I couldn’t [00:18:00] raise three, 4 million for a product like this, you know, maybe in the tech sector somewhere else, but not here. And so, uh, I really wasn’t going to have a business unless I figured that out.

And, uh, luckily I found manufacturers overseas who are willing to do 200 pieces, 500 pieces. Now we buy 5, 000 pieces, but it started off. You know, in that place where we were just getting, you know, Hey, would you please make me a hundred? Like who are you and what do you want from me? And I said, please, let’s do it together.

You know, and I promise I’ll go from a hundred to 5, 000 and we’re going to make money together and do something great. But they, it was, you had to sell it. And I could not do that in the U S.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: So did you, were you, um, did you connect with these people, manufacturers really purely through Alibaba, like cold outreach, or like, did you have any introductions made?

Josh Thurmond of LavaBox: So I’ll do, um, I did two, two, two things. Um, one, I totally just [00:19:00] called them. I, I. Cold call them and said, here, here’s what I’m making. Uh, do you want to work together? Didn’t work very well. Alibaba has a great system for an RFP. You can put a request for proposal into the Alibaba system and you’ll get a ton of different, really vary, um, prices on, on product, uh, manufacturing.

So it’s really, you have to, I’ve learned a lot about using that system. I like that system. Um, I know some people don’t like it. There are fees involved. But the, there are a couple of things that are really great about it. I’m not, I’m not paid by Alibaba, uh, but, uh, there’s a couple of things that are really great.

One is that they protect you and we’ll do onsite inspections, those sorts of things. So I think there’s a mutual understanding that, that, uh, that we want to find a common ground and work together and everybody wants to make money and do a good job. And so I’ve had, I’ve had really great success with that.

Um, but the RFP system that they have built into the actual software is fantastic. [00:20:00] Yeah, it’s going to be, uh, you’re going to have to wade through a lot of proposals, but you get there and you’re like, all right, this is the one that this person seems like, and of course, just like you, you interview people for a living and you know, That you either connect or you don’t.

And, uh, some people I didn’t connect with, they didn’t understand the vision. And there are people that like, uh, a guy I worked with, uh, working now, Tommy Yee, great guy, we really personally connected and, uh, now he’s one of my top producers, so awesome. Yeah. I mean,

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: yeah, you know, there’s, there’s definitely.

a, um, uh, an aspect of somebody or you, you know, really, um, aligning or towards a certain goal, right? And, and there could be different, uh, people or companies that can do those things, but, you know, when, when you find that right connection or, you know, alignment, I think that that’s when it kind of works out.

I’m, I’m curious, um, do you ever think, I mean, just by [00:21:00] talking to you, to me, it seems like you’re more of a sales. Uh, personality, you would have been great in like sales roles. And, you know, based on what you told me, uh, you were not in sales role. I mean, you are doing, you know, uh, guide stuff and things like that.

I mean, do you ever find that maybe you, you could have been doing some sort of a sales, uh,

Josh Thurmond of LavaBox: role in the company? Sure. Um, yeah, I, I definitely was a salesman type of person. There’s no question. Um, but, uh, I never found a whole lot of pleasure in it. I’ve, I’ve tried a couple of little jobs here and there. Um, this wasn’t really my thing, but yeah, that it is a sales job all day long every day.

And I feel like entrepreneurs who have great ideas, um, but can’t sell them just really struggle. I, I, I sit in on a couple of, um, local groups where we, we meet and talk about things and, um, it’s really hard to see people who have pretty great ideas. [00:22:00] Um, but just don’t have the personality and probably the wherewithal to go out and just sell it.

Um, you know, there were, to your point, there were already a lot of portable campfires on the market. Yeah. Um, but I wanted to create something that was, you know, that I had to sell, I had to sell the idea and I had to sell the lifestyle, you know, and so there’s a big piece of like our, if you look at our social media on Instagram fire, anytime you’ll see the, you know, we live the life.

And I think that’s like a core, you know, part of becoming an entrepreneur is that you have to live that life. It is the life. You’re selling it all the time. I wouldn’t even come on here without my logo on your show. For sure. Yeah. Uh, I wouldn’t, I drive, all my vehicles are wrapped. I drive around, I’m selling it.

Constantly. It never ends. Um, and I think that’s really what it takes. People are like, Oh, I got a great investor and he’s going to give me two million bucks and blah, blah, [00:23:00] blah, blah. That’s not really what it’s about. And, uh, cause I’ve had plenty of people who want to offer me lots and lots of money. I’m still, I still own the hundred company outright, a hundred percent.

Um, I’ve never diluted at all. And so, uh, yeah. I think that’s what it really takes is you have to live it and sell it all the time. Yeah, I know. That’s not what everybody wants to hear.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: No, I think, uh, you know, the people who are successful, I mean, that’s what it takes. I don’t think there’s, there’s a different way.

I don’t think it’s like, you know, once you found something that works, now you can relax and, you know, watch TV and expect it to sell your, you know, it’s right. Um, so. Where are you right now? So you’ve, you’ve found the product market fit. You have sales, people are buying. Now you have, um, you know, international orders and so on and so forth.

What are you thinking about now? I also saw on your website, I think you’re in the retail, um, uh, uh, channel as well. So what, what are, [00:24:00] what are you thinking about right now in terms of, uh, growing your business? Is your focus really on marketing? Is it on, you know, building, uh, channel? Um, Uh, you know, I know you’re, you’re focused really on really driving growth.

Um, so what, what is it like your day to day, uh, concerns?

Josh Thurmond of LavaBox: Sure. So we have, um, three things that we say on, uh, at the shop, we say do good. Innovate and keep going. Uh, and I think number two is really what we focus on a lot. Um, but, but there is a caveat there too. Um, but right now we’re thinking about we’re going to year three, you know, January one will be our, our year three Q1 of 2024 is year three.

And, uh, I think right now we, we, we, we really would like to broaden our, our retail and reseller space, the channel there, but the, um, I’m super selective and I, and maybe I’m in, I’m still [00:25:00] trying to figure out where this laminal space between, um, you know, direct consumer versus these wholesalers, retailers, resellers, all of them, um, where they live in our universe.

Uh, and so I’ve decided that rather than spend a lot of time working with really big distributors, really big resellers, I decided to kind of focus on. making personal relationships with a lot of small mom and pop stores. Um, it’s a tough call. My direct competitor went straight to the biggest stores they could go to.

They came out with their product about eight months after ours. It looked suspiciously like ours. Classic, you know, happens all the time. Um, but, uh, and then I had to make a decision. Do I want to try to meet them on that field? Um, or do I want to Kind of stay where I am. And you were talking about growth stick.

There’s also a duality on that side too. [00:26:00] Is there, do you want to go with this huge upshot, pull in all the investments, you know, dilute quickly, but put it out in the world, go into big shops, blah, blah, blah, blah. Um, and maybe burn out fast, maybe hit, maybe hit a home run. Who knows? Um, or is it better to chug along and kind of grow incrementally and really tweak the product, know the people, know the market.

And I decided to do the latter. Um, I’m 47. I, uh, I’ve had a great career and I think I’m lucky enough to be in that position where I said, right, I’m going to just cruise a little bit. We’re going to make great money. We’re going to change the world, but we’re also going to be really smart about our growth.

Um, and so I chose that latter place just so I could do that. Um, it’s still a ton of work, don’t get me wrong. They’re both, they’re both hard, right? Um, but I think that this model allows me to build a better product, do a better job. You know, just be [00:27:00] more, uh, attuned to what’s happening in the zeitgeist of our world.

And so that’s why I chose that direction.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: I mean, that’s really interesting that eight months after you came up with this product, you know, you already had someone kind of copy, copy it and, and bring it to market. Did you, um, do you have any patents on this? I mean, no, I think the challenge for having a product like this is of course, um, I don’t want to call it simple, but it is, I think, relatively simple.

It’s a mechanical product and, you know, anybody can get the parts and, you know, kind of assemble it. Um, so how do you, how do you keep your competitive advantage? I mean, right now, if you have one big competitor, that’s, you know, that kind of took over the retail channel. Um, how do you, how do you stay competitive?

Josh Thurmond of LavaBox: Yeah. So they, um, it’s a great question. The, uh, I think there’s a couple of [00:28:00] things there. Um, one is that the landscape has changed and I wouldn’t say this competitor hasn’t taken over the retail channel to be fair. This was already a pretty busy channel out there anyway. There were a lot of portable campfires.

We were just the first to package it in the way we do. Um, but I think about companies like Yeti. Yeah. Um, the cooler makers, uh, I think that, you know, they’re, they’re already wrote them all in coolers. They couldn’t pull a patent on that, but they did something really smart and different and they created an entire lifestyle around that.

And I think it really does matter. I think that we, we really push. We push the consumer really hard to jump into our world. And once they’re in, they’re in and it’s cool. And it’s fun and they’ll see us out and we have a great time. And I think it’s aspirational. And I think that’s a very different thing than what’s happening with a corporate, you know, knockoff.

People know that they can see it. They can feel it. Um, and it comes through in [00:29:00] the, in the, in the entire vibe of the company. I hate to use that word, but it does. I mean, people see it and feel it. They go, man, these guys look like they make this thing that, and it’s fully made overseas. It’s not, there’s no assembly.

That’s not what they do. Um, their story is bullshit. It’s that kind of thing. Sorry. Uh, and that’s the kind of thing that, that people see right through. They’re like, nah, forget it. Those guys aren’t living the life. They’re not, this was a made up product that these guys knocked off these other guys. And I think it comes, it comes around.

Um, but I’ll be really honest about this part of it. I don’t let it, I don’t even think about it. I keep my head down. I work hard because if you think if you spend all your time worrying about everybody else and what they’re doing, you can’t do what you’re doing. And I, and I, I feel like a lot of people make that mistake is they spend all their time worrying about the, you know, the competitors and, and who’s doing this and who’s doing that.

And, uh, I think it’s a mistake. I think my dad always said, just, you know, just do your thing, you know, [00:30:00] put your head down and do your work. And so, uh, that’s what I’m trying to do. And I think it, I think it’s working. I think that they burned out real fast. And so, uh, and then, like I said, there’s some big players out there that are much bigger than, than our direct competitor.

Um. That, uh, have also followed suit. So I was pretty excited to see them build a product that was very similar to mine. I know it, it was validation, uh, and they, they clearly couldn’t destroy us. So I’m pretty excited that we weathered that storm early on in the, in the business.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: I think, I think that makes a lot of sense.

I think if you are building a, I guess, a, I mean, the word that you use is lifestyle, but it’s, it’s kind of like a, you know, um, an ecosystem around a certain category. I think that’s, and a brand around that, I think that’s tough to beat. Um, in that line, I mean, if you’re building an ecosystem around this whole camping [00:31:00] lifestyle, are you I know you have like one product, but you do have some variations of it.

But are you thinking about adding additional products that kind of go with that lifestyle, that camping lifestyle? Are you, you know, researching, thinking about any other products, uh, to add to your

Josh Thurmond of LavaBox: product line? Sure. So we, um, we actually just finished, we just got our patent for, uh, another product I make, which is a propane tank cover.

Uh, we all know that. If you’ve, if you’re, even when you’re grilling outside, if you’re using propane, propane tanks freeze up, they’re kind of a pain when that happens. So I actually created a, um, a thick neoprene cover that sits very tightly, just like to your body on the tank. Um, just received the patent for it.

Uh, pretty excited about that. And, uh, that, that, that’s already in the market and we’re about to do a really big push to get that. We’re actually going to bring that to larger stores. So you may see that. Um, I forgot what the big, um, I forgot what the big [00:32:00] store is in, in the, the Walmart of Canada. I can’t remember what it’s called.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Um, Home Depot or Rona?

Josh Thurmond of LavaBox: Oh, maybe it’s that one. It’s the second one. Yeah. So we’re, we’re, or I’ll be out. No, what’s the name of that out there? Maybe it’s an outdoor store, but anyway, um, we’re thinking about bringing that as a, as one of our bigger store products, um, it’s definitely a Home Depot style product, a low style product, um, really a neat product.

Cause it’s, you know, everybody has the same problem, which is you put the propane tank in the back of your car and it rolls around, this thing has a, uh, like I said, a tight cover and it has loops all over, so you can tie it into your vehicle, you can strap it in. Um, and it’s a nice carrying case. And so, and it looks better than a propane tank.

And so we’ve brought that to the market and a number of other things. We have a special grill and actually we just launched a really neat product. That’s a dual burner stove. So now you have a big campfire on one side and then an actual cooking. Unit inside of that. It also works. So it’s, [00:33:00] we’re definitely expanding quickly.

I was going to say earlier, just as a, a word of caution is that, uh, every product that you bring to market costs money, right? Safety testing, manufacturing, all the pieces, marketing, of course. Um. And, uh, you gotta be careful not to overspend on that side. If you’re constantly innovating, I feel like you may miss a lot of really great improvements to your core products, but also put yourself in the poor house by spending all that cash on things that, you know, may or may not hit, hit just right.

And so I felt like for year three, we need to pull back really focused, not pull back, but just kind of keep the status quo, um, roll out this new product called the Trident. Just the dual burner system. And then we’re going to ride that for a little while. We, we definitely like to innovate. Like I said, it’s our number two core principle.

Um, but, uh, I think you can’t innovate yourself. Yeah. Not as a business.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Yeah, for sure. Be careful. I think, I think that’s, that’s kind of [00:34:00] a, a big, uh, lesson that a lot of investors give to entrepreneurs is, you know, um, it’s like when you have a product that’s working, it’s like take full advantage of that, you know, just to max out the sales for that before kind of diverting your attention to a different product.

Josh Thurmond of LavaBox: So definitely. We’re not going to build a tent or, uh, you know, we’re not. We’re going to stay in our lane for, uh, maybe for until, you know, until we sell or whatever. So for sure required, I, you know, it’s always a, I was on the table. Okay.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Um, can you talk a little bit about your marketing? Um, what, what is working right now in terms of customer acquisition?

Um, and Yeah, I mean, I’m assuming, you know, marketing has its costs. So, uh, can you talk a little bit about, you know, what does it take to, uh, to acquire a customer in this space?

Josh Thurmond of LavaBox: Yeah, this is, um, actually the, the part that I enjoy the most and I’m also learning the most, [00:35:00] um, which I think is pretty typical, but, uh, the thing you’re interested in, you seem to hone in on, um, And I think it’s, it’s been really interesting to learn what really works.

So we were talking earlier about the initial grill and marketing, getting out there, just talking to people, um, getting into the ecosphere, uh, and getting the product into that space. But the, the next step was definitely looking at our segments, deciding what really was going to sell. And, uh, getting into real data.

So I invested early in, into, I won’t mention the product, but a product that gave us that ability to really see who was coming onto the site, you know, all of our analytics are very, very clear about who makes, who buys the product. And I would encourage any, any entrepreneur, you can have a great idea, but you’ve got to know this stuff now.

It’s just a huge advantage. Those tools are, are indispensable in a way that, that people, a lot of people that don’t, I think you’ll come out with a product and they’re like, Oh, you know, it’s a great product and it might be. But, uh, if you [00:36:00] don’t know who you’re selling it to, none of it works. And so I’ve been, I spent so much time and some capital on that piece of it to really understand the customer.

And so now I’ve, you know, I can move my targets over to, so I know that. I know that mostly men buy my product, let’s be fair. Uh, and I also know that those men are usually over 35, uh, and I know that they’re heavily Facebook users. So I was been, I’ll spend a large portion of my cash, uh, for short term sales to get them in the funnel on just.

on just Facebook marketing. And we, we really try to tap into a lot of things that that particular demographic likes. So we spend a lot of time thinking about the things that they, they remember or make them feel nostalgic, make them feel like, gosh, I really want to be, I want to have this product. So I feel like this.

Um, and we, I know it sounds simple, but It’s a, you know, it’s a pretty complex set of factors that gets [00:37:00] you to get somebody to trigger them that way. Um, so I, you know, for our marketing majors out there, I’m sure they’re used to hearing, but that really is, we’re tapping into something that’s very primal, that’s something that’s very, uh, innate inside of.

That consumer that, that they love, right? They’re hearing music that they remember they’re, they’re seeing the sites, they remember they’re having these memories that, that are really pleasurable and memorable and exciting and things that remind them of being a feeling good. That’s how I want my consumer to feel.

Cause it’s a cool, feel good product. Um, and then for my long term play. I am trying something I’ve never done before, and I can’t tell you the results yet, but I’ve put some capital into a couple of television shows. Okay. I’m not sure where it’s gonna go. Okay. I won’t mention it. Um, but, uh, you know, I just don’t, I The viewership is good.

Um, it’s actually a Canadian company, uh, that does the production, but I [00:38:00] do believe that there is no validation for a product like TV validation. People see it on TV and they know it’s good, right? It’s an, it’s, it’s an incredible thing. I mean, you can sell anything on TV, uh, for some reason, we all have all decided that that’s an authorized space and you can see something on TV and be like, it’s a good thing, you know?

And that’s why shark tank was great. Um, and so I’ve, I’ve definitely sunk some cash into that. Um, and it’s, I’m yet to really understand my customer acquisition costs there. Um, so don’t data’s hard. You probably know some about this, but it’s not like that, that one to one quick return on that data. I can’t see it.

I can see what markets are. You know, tuning in, I can see on people watching, I can see, look at Nielsen, you can look at the things that people are watching the shows, but their actual conversions are really tough to calculate. And, uh, so I’ve been learning that side of it, like what, what’s really happening [00:39:00] there, you know?

Um, and it’s a little bit of a leap of faith. I’m not gonna lie.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Yeah. I mean, I guess, I guess there would be a, uh, you know, a bit of a qualitative thing, right? So, you know, that when, you know, and I’ll ask you about your Shark Tank appearance in a second. You probably know that once probably your, your episode, um, runs on, you know, uh, on Shark Tank or on TV, you probably get a bump in sales from that, right?

For sure. And I’ve heard that from other entrepreneurs I’ve spoken with. It’s like, you know, when, when they have reruns, they know when they have the reruns because, you know, they start getting a bump in sales. Best part. Yeah. And I guess that’s, that’s kind of similar with TV also, even though maybe. It’s difficult to have that, you know, direct attribution to the show.

Um, but you can know when, when your, um, ad is showing up and, you know, is that really giving a bump in sales? Um, I’m assuming like your ad, you’re, you’re targeting like shows, but that are really [00:40:00] more outdoors focused or, you know, the kind of, yeah,

Josh Thurmond of LavaBox: yeah. And I, um, Like I said, I just don’t know. I know, I know the viewership, you know, so you can see that, but we don’t use codes on that show.

It really is just brought to you by lava box. Um, and so it’s a tough one. And that one is, it always feels strange. And of course, um, you know, on the same marketing piece of it, uh, we spend a really diverse, I spend a lot of time with influencers as well. I probably have, oh, I don’t know, 30 or so on the roster right now.

So not a ton, but. It’s something for me to manage. We use software for that too. Um, but, uh, yeah, I mean, that’s a big piece of it. And then, and once again, these that’s a, I don’t know if you want to talk about it at all, but that’s a, that’s a very wild West world that entrepreneurs nowadays really have to understand.

Um, how to work with, with all those influencers out there because they, it [00:41:00] runs, you know, this incredible spectrum and these are wonderful people, like they’re really neat people who are doing really neat things, especially in my space. You know, they’re building awesome jeeps or they’re, you know, flying through the air on some paraglider or something, you know, they’re doing something really cool.

Um, And they, and they, they’re either professionals at, at this job, or they’re just learning the job. And I think it’s really interesting to, um, work with them and figure out how they’re going to help the company grow, how, how we’re going to make sure that they get paid. Um, so it’s been, that’s another whole nother piece that I think entrepreneurs just need to like.

Yeah, get in their heads. That’s going to happen if you’re going to get off the ground without a massive amount of capital Yeah,

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: influencer marketing is tricky and I mean i’ve been hearing a lot of different feedback like A lot of times I hear that it has become more and more challenging and it’s almost like you know You put in the money and you don’t see the results But I also know as I said, you know, i’ve been watching a lot of you know, camping kind of [00:42:00] content I’ve been following some influencers on youtube.

Um and I can tell you, like, I was not a camping person before, but now seeing the lifestyle, you know, I, like, that’s kind of my go to these days, like, I’ve watched those videos and I identify with that influence. In fact, that has kind of motivated me to, to, to go outdoors. So I’ve been actually. Paying really, uh, you know, focused attention of the kind of, you know, tools and equipment that this person is using and I write it down.

So I think it’s, it’s not, you know, where you have an influence or where the audience connects with them in a very deep way. I can see, you know, marketing with an influence is working really well as well. So it is definitely an interesting space. Yeah.

Josh Thurmond of LavaBox: And they’re aspirational people. I mean, I’m, you know, I’m always impressed by them.

You know that. When I see them go out and do a, an incredible hike, I’m inspired. I want to do that. I go, I want to, I want to be like that [00:43:00] person. And so I, I really like working with them. Um, you’re exactly right. There are gosh, I feel terrible. Um, every once in a while we have some, I’ll sell, I’ll tell it for entrepreneurs, set standards.

decide the valuation and the value proposition of what your product is worth versus, um, how many followers, what their reach is. So, um, it’s not a, you know, it’s not a set in stone calculation, but I think for us, we’re, we usually require about 20, 000 followers on Instagram before we’ll give you a product.

So, and I’m really upfront about it. I just say, look, No one gets free stuff. You got to buy in and have some skin in the game unless you’re really big. And I know you’re going to produce great content, but if you’re new and you want to get in, you got it. You got it. I’ll give you 40 percent off, but you got to get in.

Um, and so there’s this. I think that’s a, I don’t, I don’t know if that’s, I don’t think that’s perfect, but I think that’s a good way to weed out people who just want free stuff because they’re, [00:44:00] it happens and uh, it’s totally fine. But there are great, um, I have some, my best influencers are people who just trying to get their page bigger, trying to grow.

Um. You know, really love the product already own the product, um, you know, have some investment or willing to go on the journey with me, but, uh, Hey, can I just get a free thing? And then I’m never going to hear it. You’re never, I’m not going to hear from you ever again. And you’re not going to make a video.


Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: out of here. I think the best one is where the influencer themselves have, uh, are using the product or have used the product and they can, you know, they, they connect with the product. Then, then they can really push the product or, you know, they can really show the value proposition to their audience.

It’s, it’s

Josh Thurmond of LavaBox: very rare that I reach out to somebody, I wait until they are like, I really like your product and I’m growing my channel. Can you, can you help? Yeah, that’s that’s the person I work with because I already know they own it and they love it

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: for sure So I want to briefly talk about shark tank appearance because that’s definitely a big a big thing [00:45:00] given how popular it is and So yeah, can you share a little bit about your experience?

You know, i’m assuming you probably went there for the uh for the you know, the the the viewership and you know the the exposure that that I you know, I have spoken with a few shark tank entrepreneurs and Um, I think that’s, that’s one of the big motivations. Um, how did you, how did you get on? Um, and, uh, what was your experience

Josh Thurmond of LavaBox: like?

Sure. So, um, well, first of all, and I think everybody says the same thing and it’s, and it’s real is that I thought it was a great experience. Um, just personally, I’ve heard a few, you know, you hear different, everybody has their own attitude and I’m kind of an optimistic person. I thought it was wonderful.

I thought it was really fun. It was a cool life experience. I wasn’t going to say no. Um, so I want to lead with that. Um, I initially, uh, we were about a year into the business and I sent an application and it really was because, you know, once [00:46:00] again, I’m a neophyte in this space. Um, so I, I definitely thought it would be interesting to have somebody.

On my side, who was so visible, um, and also so knowledgeable that that might be a great person to bring into the company. Um, but I, uh, I had no sales. It’s so little sales. You know, I think we did about 40 grand in our first year. So really nothing. Um, and now we do over a million just to, so we’ve had incredible growth in a, in a, in a year and a half.

Uh, so, but, um, it was, uh, you know, I wanted to see what it was, what it was all about, and I liked the show. Uh, you know, obviously as an entrepreneur, I was already kind of keyed into it. So I applied. Um, they said what I suspected, which was, um, you don’t have enough sales. They liked me. They liked all the auditions.

You do a lot of tapes and all that kind of stuff. I can’t talk too much about it, but, um, you definitely need to hustle to get onto the show. And there’s a [00:47:00] lot of paperwork, uh, and you earn your spot. I think they start off with 60, 000 applicants each year and whittle down to just a couple hundred. So it’s a pretty serious and then it goes down from there who actually airs.

So it’s a pretty serious process and you need to take it seriously. And it is like a second job, I mean, nonstop paperwork, due diligence, financials, everything. Um, so I’m, I’m very impressed with their whole machine. The, you know, the, the machinations of actually making it happen is pretty impressive. Uh, but didn’t make it first year.

I was definitely disappointed, but I say, you know what? Uh, they said, you know, he told me that we love the product. Please come back, try again, try to get in the next year, right through. Uh, we had great sales, uh, and you know, our margins are very, very good. Uh, so we had, uh, so we’ve definitely marched right into the show.

And it was, uh, like I said, it was, um, not easy. People who think it’s easier. You just go on. It’s not like that at all. They, uh, they require a lot of you and that’s, uh, that’s good. [00:48:00] You can see it, it comes through on the show, I think. No, I,

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: I, I agree. I mean, it is a show business. It’s not just, you know, anybody can go and make a pitch.

I think, I think they’re probably looking for a combination of factors. You know, you, you need to have a legitimate business. You need to have sales, but at the same time, you also, they’re probably also looking for someone who has a certain kind of personality who would look good on television and things like that.

So I, yeah, I mean, it’s, it’s definitely a challenging thing to get and definitely congratulate you on that. Um, maybe we can talk a little bit about your fulfillment and shipping. Um, sure. Uh, are you shipping? You said you’re shipping worldwide now. Can you talk a little bit about, you know, are you doing that yourself or are you working with like a third party logistics

Josh Thurmond of LavaBox: company?

No, we don’t do three PLS. Um, we are still shipping ourselves. Um, once again, I, I like keeping it in house for a little while longer. Uh, you know, we will let it go relatively soon. We just can’t do [00:49:00] it. Um, but we have a really great space. And we, we, you know, I think that’s another huge piece of it is you just have to think about our, are your nuts and bolts.

Can you make the rent, uh, you know, moving out of the garage and moving into, uh, you know, warehouse space was a big deal for us and having where else space that we could afford and be able to ship out of and receive and all that was important. Um, and so if you can save pennies there, that’s a, that’s a huge piece of it.

Um, but anyway, the, uh, shipping right now, you know, once again, fully automated, I love it. Good solutions. Uh, and it does take work as you know, you have to go and talk to all these salespeople and really see how it’s going to integrate and fix your stack. So it actually works right for you. Um, and it’s never actually fixed just for the, I was like, Oh man, we’ve got a dial and then something goes haywire and you change something on yours.

We, we use Shopify. I’m sure people will want to know. Um, we, as we scaled, we shot, we still have [00:50:00] Shopify and I love Shopify. I think it’s great. Uh, but the, uh, You know, we’re making it work with the rest of the stack was really interesting, you know, saying, Hey, how’s this going to integrate with our shipping situation?

So, but it’s all worked out pretty well. Um, and I think it’s, it’s fine for a little bit longer, but to your point, we’re going to have to move it off site, uh, relatively soon, probably in the third quarter of next year or so. Okay.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: What does your team look like right now?

Josh Thurmond of LavaBox: Yeah. So we, um, I, once again, super lean cause I, I really rely on software.

Um, You know, it’s a, in fact, we’re, we’re looking at a bunch of copy, copy writing and that sort of work through AI. Um, my friend owns a company that does that, and so we really keep it lean. I’ve got about, I’ve got three builders, packers, see, you know, a guy who actually really runs the show at the shop. Um, my operations officer, and then, uh, and then I really lean heavily on [00:51:00] an art department.

Uh, of two, it’s sister and another, another, and a friend. And then, um, you know, accounting staff, it’s pretty small. We have a couple of people we work with, but they’re in a firm, um, so we can pull resources from them. And, uh, and then finally. Uh, people heard me say it before, but I’ll state it again. We’re really trying to have the assembly and the work done at the shop, done by people with disabilities.

And so we brought in our first person, um, with a disability to work at the store, uh, which is really great. So he helps with, uh, building everything. Uh, really cool guy is, uh, he’s a rapper. His name is Kay Ice. Do you want to look him up? But, uh, Kevin Wagner, great dude, uh, with down syndrome and he’s helping us do a lot of the.

He loves the marketing and making music. And so he helps us with that as well, but, uh, we keep it pretty lean. I mean, I, you know, it, if it’s just the assembly and it’s simple assembly, like, um, you’re able to make it so that if you had, first of all, it was [00:52:00] easy to make, uh, easy to assemble, but also if you had a limb difference or you didn’t have a way to.

So you didn’t have a lot of strength in one hand or something. Um, you could still work at the shop and do the assembly. So it’s a pretty small team. No, I think that

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: makes sense. And I think that’s, that’s great that you’re kind of supporting, uh, you know, uh, the team, uh, in, in your community. Um, I think that makes a lot of sense.

Um, in every entrepreneur. Yeah, for sure. Um, in every entrepreneur’s journey, there’s always mistakes made, lessons learned, failures. I’m sure, you know, in your, uh, entrepreneurial journey, you’ve, you’ve encountered a few. Uh, what comes to mind when you think of like mistakes or failure? Like, what is, what is something that you think that you You could have done without and what did you learn from that experience?

What can other entrepreneurs learn from your mistakes?

Josh Thurmond of LavaBox: Yeah, I think I think the big one one of the well I’ve made a lot of really funny small mistakes. [00:53:00] I think people can learn from I i’m, you know, not understanding exactly where my product would sell so I did a lot of testing and I feel like The testing was expensive when it really could have probably figured it out with research, um, and it was too lazy to research.

I just threw money at it. That’s just not the answer. I’ve found over and over again, that with a little bit of due diligence. I really can make a much smarter, more informed decision. And I know this is really hard to say to entrepreneurs because everybody’s tired. Everybody’s, you know, overwhelmed, but pushing past that and digging in and doing a little bit more research and doing, doing the hustle is a huge piece of it.

I, I. Would be in a better financial position and we’re doing fine, but I, but I, I would be even better if I had, if I had just said, all right, I need to figure this out. I’ll give you a good example. Um, one thing that did not work for us and we spent a bunch of money on it was, uh, um, an in flight [00:54:00] magazine for Christmas push.

And, uh, that might work fine for some folks. For us, it was, if I had done even an ounce of research and not just thrown cash at it, I wouldn’t have made that mistake. And I needed that money at that time because of Christmas inventory. So I ended up running out of inventory on a time when I absolutely could have just bought more inventory with that cash.

So it’s those kinds of things. And if I had done, like I said, I owed him of research, I would have known that was a bad fit. But I was like, Oh man, I gotta, I’m tired and I just, yeah, hell just, yeah, okay, let’s advertise with you guys. Total mistake. But it happens. It happens. Yeah. Um, and then I’d say, uh, um, for me, I just don’t want to tell anybody the wrong thing, but for us, it really was about slow and steady wins the race.

That may not be the truth for everybody. Um, but it’s been the truth for us. Every time we try to rush a product through or do something like that, we make a huge mistake. Um, the other [00:55:00] piece is that, uh, and I’ve been guilty of this. I work too much. And I think it’s really important for entrepreneurs, especially if you’re on the creative side and you’re actually building products.

And I, I love making things. That’s the core of me. It’s just making stuff. I’m. I’m building out my, I’m rebuilding out my van for the third time. That’s what I want to, I like it. I enjoy it. Um, and, uh, if you’re not true to that piece of you, then you’re, you’re, you can’t run a company. And I think that’s really important.

So I I’ve, I’ve made that mistake where I’ve, and it’s, and it alienates your family and it, you know, it’s all those things that, that you push, you know, you see this TV shows and the movies and it’s like, this seems like a cliche, but it’s really not that part’s not. Um, so I think that’s the biggest mistake you can make is to.

Is to forget what you’re doing here and why you’re doing it. Um, so I’ve, I’ve been a boss for a long time, a manager for a long time. And I think, um, you know, [00:56:00] really getting so wrapped up in everything else and not paying attention to your team and not taking care of them is a huge mistake that people make.

Um, and so that’s another one I would, I would caution people about is to really, those people are who make it happen, you know, I, I try to, I try to spend as much time as I can praising and thanking them and thanking our customers, um, Cause that’s what really happened. You know, they fell in love and I fell in love with them and we all worked together.

So too much love, sorry. So much love for a business chat.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: I think, I think that’s great advice for sure. I mean, yeah. Um, there are some things that are absolutely essential and you cannot ignore them in the journey. Of course, you know, it’s a tough journey, but some things are, you know, you can’t ignore yourself.

You can’t ignore, you know, your team and so forth, customers

Josh Thurmond of LavaBox: as well. I think you just. You’re not as productive either. I mean, you just don’t, you’re not hitting all the, the things that made it great in the first place. So I don’t know. And we’re, and we’re, you caught me at a funny time because, um, the initial [00:57:00] shine has worn off, right?

And now the real work is going. And I think that entrepreneurs, a lot of them, especially on the inventor side, the side I’m on where you’re making new things, uh, it’s all shiny, right? It starts off really shiny. And now. The discipline is already disciplined, but now the real discipline kicks in because you’re tired and you’re worn out and you want to do the next shiny thing.

And, uh, that’s where I think you can really go.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Well, I, I hope, uh, I know. I wish you all the best. I think, uh, yeah. You know, thank you. Things will work out, um, you know, slow and steady once there is. Um, now I think, so now I’m going to move on to our rapid fire segment. I’m going to ask you a few quick questions, and you have to answer them maybe in a one, one word or two words or a sentence.

Okay? So the first question is one book recommendation for entrepreneurs and why.

Josh Thurmond of LavaBox: Oh my gosh, I would say, um, [00:58:00] I gotta use more than one word. Trying to think, um, what have I liked recently? I’m trying to think of something I’ve liked recently. Uh, cause I never have time to read anymore. Just so sad. Who has time to read?

Uh. I don’t know. I, what was that? Let me have to come back to this one. Let me think about it for a second. I know it’s rapid fire, but let me think about it. No worries.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Yeah, no worries. I know. I know some people, you know, uh, they don’t read a lot of books and that’s, that’s totally fine as well. Um,

Josh Thurmond of LavaBox: I read a lot of books, but I don’t, it’s a, I don’t read a lot of the leadership books, um, even though I’ve done my math, I have a master’s degree in public affairs, uh, so I’ve read a lot of leadership books.

Um, But I’m not, they’re also Vogue. I hate to say this, but they’re like, they go in and out of popularity and this management style and that management style and this thing and that thing. And I want to, I don’t want to [00:59:00] give somebody something that’s already trite or that style’s out or, you know what I mean?

So let me think about it just for a

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: second. Okay. Um, an innovative product or idea, uh, it could be e commerce, retail, or tech that you feel excited about.

Josh Thurmond of LavaBox: Hmm. I am excited about, um. AI generated, uh, content big time, um, especially, um, bigger learning models that allow me to, to see where my, my sales are going.

I’m seeing some predictive stuff now, uh, coming out of a lot of the, um, segmentation, uh, software for marketing. I love seeing it. You know, being able to, being able to predict the next time someone’s going to purchase on Q1, Q2, Q3 for the next year, uh, looking at their habits is really interesting to me.

Uh, and I, the more I dig into it, the more I want to know.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Wow. That’s, that’s very interesting. And you find that to. To be true. Like when, when the AI [01:00:00] predicts that this is the time that somebody’s going to watch,

Josh Thurmond of LavaBox: I’m finding it to be truer and truer every moment. Wow. Get the AI keeps increasing. You know, once again, you know, these large learning models, they, as they aggregate that information, they just, they really get to know our habits so well, and I am just blown away.

Their predictive models are, are so solid. So I’m excited to see where it goes. Little scared.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: For sure. I think, I think people won’t stop camping anytime soon. So you

Josh Thurmond of LavaBox: don’t have to know, but we all have behaviors. Right. And it’s, it’s really interesting to see what, what marketing, you know, 30, 40 years ago was trying to predict and what we can predict instantly now, just looking at basic habits, pretty amazing.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: think, I think the scary part is, you know, how much, um, how much. Somebody can, you know, can know about you or predict about you or, you know, the, I think yesterday I was watching where in the airport now you don’t even have to carry a passport and, you know, they’ll just scan your face and this was in [01:01:00] UK.

So I think, I think there are some, I think it makes things easy, but that’s at the same time. It’s very scary. Also, I mean, you know, you don’t have any privacy, so.

Josh Thurmond of LavaBox: You do not, and the habits are so easy to trace. For sure.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Seven. Uh, a business or productivity tool or software that you would recommend or a productivity tip?

Josh Thurmond of LavaBox: Sure. Um, if you are doing, uh, you know, under 10 million, I think that, that I, I, I don’t work for Shopify, but I have found it to be incredibly useful. Um, it’s, uh, it, it, it is actually really intuitive. Um, I have a little bit of a soft software background, but I, I still found it very, very easy. Um, and I think just about anybody can run a successful business, a Canva account and a Shopify

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: account.

For sure. Yeah. It’s, it’s, it’s very, yeah. Now it’s, it’s very easy. Like the softwares have made it very, very easy now. And,

Josh Thurmond of LavaBox: and, and probably an AI, AI production. [01:02:00] Um, piece of software, especially, um, photo manipulation, that sort of thing. If you, a lot of times it’s really hard to generate enough images. Um, it’s expensive, although you’re, you know, your iPhone 15 can shoot a great picture.

Uh, sometimes you need to be able to drop out that stuff. You have to be able to, um, feel comfortable jumping on those apps and, and, and making it work. Like you may not be able to afford, you know, A whole bunch of great photo shoots, but you can produce a pretty great looking photo that feels good to people, um, right off the bat from, from your iPhone 15 or whatever.

For sure. For

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: sure. Uh, a peer entrepreneur or business person whom you look up to or someone who inspires you?

Josh Thurmond of LavaBox: Yeah. Um, so the best one, I, I look up to a lot of people, but I have a friend. Um, he makes a product called the anti shanty. And, uh, I just looked, the reason I look up to him, his name is Rod. He’s the owner of this company owns many, many companies.

[01:03:00] Um, but anti shanty is one of his, how we met in the outdoor space. But I look up to him because you can tell he’s having a good time. Like this guy loves life. And, uh, And he still loves life. He’s been an entrepreneur his whole life and, uh, he doesn’t feel pessimistic or crushed or, you know, cynical about what happens to him.

He’s still out there riding mountain bikes and having a great time. And he made lots of money and he did all the things right. He made the world better. And, uh, I look up to those kinds of guys. It may not be the, you know, the flashiest guy out there, but man, he did it right. And that’s. Like that’s why I look up to him.

I, we’re about to do a collaborative project together, um, building one of his structures into our show van for, uh, trade shows, and I just really think he’s one of those guys. Awesome.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Final question, best business advice that you have ever received or you would give to other

Josh Thurmond of LavaBox: entrepreneurs? Well, you said it in the very beginning, write it down.

You know, it, [01:04:00] uh, it really does make a difference. Like say, this is what we’re about. This is what we’re trying to do. Write it down. Uh, cause you and make it concrete, make it real, cause that’s the thing that actually changes it. Cause people talk about shit all the time, you know, nothing happens, uh, and until you actually say, this is what we’re going to do and make it real and make it, you know, you can hold it in your hand.

So we, at the shop we have, you know, we really do believe in it. We put the, it’s on our mouse pads. It’s just our core values. So write it down and make it real and then go do it. Um, that’s what I would say that, you know, it’s, you’re gonna, all the other stuff is, is noise. Cause you’re going to make mistakes.

All that’s going to happen. Um, you’re going to fail, but, uh, if you don’t like actually take the first step, it’s never going to happen.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Definitely. That’s, that’s definitely a great advice. Um, and uh, uh, yeah, Josh, those were all the questions that I had, unless you remember another book. [01:05:00]

Josh Thurmond of LavaBox: I’ll think about it.

I’ll get back to you next time. Okay. Rain

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: check.

Josh Thurmond of LavaBox: Sure. For sure. Um, waiting and influencing people. I’m

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: kidding. No, no, that’s, that’s a great book. That’s a great book. I mean, people have recommended that in the past, for sure. It’s a good book. That’s a good book for sales, for sure. Um, well, those were all the questions that I had.

Thank you so much again. If anybody wants to check out your product, what is the best way to do that?

Josh Thurmond of LavaBox: Yeah, best way is to go on to fireanytime. com. Uh, of course, you can Google LavaBox and a million things will come up. Uh, another great place to see our product in action is Instagram. And once again, our handle on Instagram is fireanytime.

Uh, and on YouTube, we have lots of funny videos. We spend so much time just having fun, uh, with our videos that I think you’ll get

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: sucked in. Awesome. Well, Josh, thank you so much again for sharing your story, for sharing, uh, you know, your business advice, your successes and failures. And, um, I’m sure it’s going to be very inspirational, uh, for other, um, [01:06:00] entrepreneurs.

So thank you again for your time and opportunity. Really appreciate it. And

Josh Thurmond of LavaBox: thank you for having me on. You’re a great interviewer. That was really wonderful. Thank you. Thank you.

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