Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Onward and ….Two weeks later

So, when I arrive back home and tell my story to John, I say to him that I feel that will not be the last of it.  Two weeks later, Sarah calls me and informs me that the producers would like to submit our work to Sully.  Was I ecstatic! Naturally, she informs me that they do not have a CharBQ to pass on and that I must do so. Oddly enough, in that two week period, thanks to the Kennedy interview, we began to look for an author to partner with for an add-on cook book. We also added a smoker cover, beefed-up the handles and made some other manufacturing cost saving features.
We draft a letter, add pictures of CharBQ (version 2), a DVD video and one of the prototypes and mail it away. We then turn our attention to finding an author and finalizing the manufacturing costs.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Pitchmen Season 2: And the Winners are?

At first, I took the picture of the reveal (see picture), then I looked, no I examined, no I searched for my name or the product name, but to no avail. I could not find either on the board…Really??? Soon after, you can hear people screaming and laughing, crying, I searched again for my name. How can this be? Could they not see the value in this product? I went down the list, one by one, triple checking to make certain that I was not listed. 17 names and I was not one of them. 17 products, that were all small gadgets, from what I can tell. 17 names and none of the inventors that I mentioned were listed.
The film crew asked that after the reveal, those who were not selected need to leave the premises in order to start the next segment. I grabbed my CharBQ's, placed my CharBQ hat on and walked down the "green hall" while a camera man was on the opposite side, recoding my walk. When I reached the front, Peter was conducting "Rejected" interviews. He stops me, and asks me some question, and truth be told, I was still in shock of not being selected. He asked me, "how do I feel", at the time, numb, and my reply was close to the heart, reserved, yeah it should have been me, bla, bla, bla. I also answered, in a polite manner, congratulations on all who made to the next level. Peter then probed me and I stated, that I felt they made a mistake - that the CharBQ was loved by all. Peter then, off camera agreed, "I think they did too" Later than night, when I placed pen to paper on the plane and the decision had more time to sink in, my answers are more in line with, Were they on crack? Can I smoke what they were smoking? What were they thinking?
But I digress, when I finished my exit interview with Peter, I turned around and there was "Sully" shaking peoples hands and thanking the rejected inventors for coming. Naturally, I stepped up, shook his hand and took a picture (see picture). And my final thoughts on this topic? Any meeting or pitch, I will have a barbecue for demonstrating the CharBQ and at all costs, have my partner John attend.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Pitchmen Season 2: Waiting Game

After about a 10 minute wait, I sat down with Peter and had a one to one chat. Another surreal feeling, he would ask me a question and naturally I would answer. Then he would reiterate my answer and incorporate his question - ARGH! I just could not get that part in my mind. This was not a standard interview, you must repeat the question in the answer…TTQA! His last question was :how did you think your pitch went?" and my response was that "I believe I did a good job, that the crew asked me where can they buy a CharBQ". Peter smiled and said, "I thought the same thing".
So, it was roughly 10 am, finished my pitch, my post interview and I walked around mingling with other inventors. We were informed that the decision would be announced at noon so we were free go to have lunch. The funny thing was, although in the email, we were informed of a strict start time and that an end time would be imposed, neither was true and in the end, moist of those selected to go one were the late comers. So now, there were about 50 different inventors and I got to meet with the inventor of the Lawn Mower Caddy and then there was Derek, the rim bling bicycle inventor, and there was James who invented enzymes to keep the drains clean and another who invented a gadget to prevent toilet paper from unrolling.
Mark and I took lunch together at a local Cheese Steak store, when we got back to the studio, Kennedy (the chick from MTV - the VJ - Yeah, I did not know who she was either) was conducting interviews (see picture). We watched her crew move from product to product, Mark and I then got in line to get more product exposure.
My interview with Kennedy was interesting, she was certainly no fan of the CharBQ, specifically charcoal cooking. At one point, she stated that the convenience of the gas grill and the difficulties of judging how to cook meat on charcoal were the positives/negatives. I, naturally agreed about the convenience of cooking, and that growing up we all enjoyed the smoky flavors and today, with all of the reality cooking shows, flavor was in. In the end, she was no a fan of charcoal cooking which equated to a no sale. However, I came out of that interview with an idea to offer a charcoal cook book to go with the CharBQ!
Noon came and went and all that occurred was another announcement to state that in 30 minutes they would announce the winners. Time marched on until finally at 2 o'clock, the crew brought out a large picture frame with a black sheet covering the chosen ones (see picture). After 30 more minutes of positioning the frame, the cameras and the inventors, they were finally ready to reveal. Donna, provided an emotional speech, thanking the inventors for their courage to make their inventions a reality, the dedication, commitment that it takes to get to this point and for the effort made in showing up. This "off-the-cuff" speech was recorded three times before the final reveal (see picture).

Friday, March 19, 2010

Pitchmen Season 2: Show time

I followed the direction given to me by Donna (the person in charge),to say the product name three times, "CharBQ, CharBQ, Do you CharBQ?" then state my name. Now I am asked to pitch and nervously I enter my first paragraph, fumble and alter the "convenience" section and end with the "adjustable" section. That was when I went blank!! I could not recall the next line for my life, I apologized three time before my mind opened up and moved. I moved along the speech and concluded without incident. I then went through the stat's and the Flash of Genius, then Donna asked me to stand up the CharBQ with charcoals and to reiterate how the product functions. When I ended, Donna, the photographer and the sound man all wanted to know where to buy one. That made me feel good. I was off to meet with Peter, for my post interview.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Pitchmen Season 2: On Site

After a few minutes, I get out of my rental car and I walk over to introduce myself. The first person that I meet on this journey was Mark Anthony, he invented the Auto Contact (www.theautocontact.com). He has had this invention for over 2 years, managed to get into a few good accounts and would like to get broader exposure. The next person to park along side us was Amanda, the non-paid PA! We spoke with her for a few minutes and around 7:15 am, Madelyn, the owner arrived to open the doors to her studio. Needless to say, the casting call did not start at 8 am sharp, more like 9 ish…. And by then I had meet a few more inventors.
Sarah set up a table in the garden and asked the inventors (about 20 at this time) to line up. I managed to get myself into the 5th position, while Mark made third and the others randomly spread out throughout. Very cool and strange. I get up to the desk, state my name, and then I'm give three sets of documents to "read" and sign. I think if John and Linda knew that I signed without reading they would have me committed! After signing, I hand Sarah a package that contained a DVD, pictures and a write-up of the invention. After about 20 minutes, they called the first 5 people and we followed one of the PA's to the audition rooms. We performed the walk three times, the camera man needed three different angles and so all of us need to do perform the walk and hold the items in the same order/manner. I this is cool! We walked on what they called the "green hall" which was simply an ally between the building and the side fence that had grass turf on the floor. Once inside the small foyer, the five of us were instructed to read the rules of the audition (see picture). At one point, I was the last one in the foyer (see picture) and naturally I was nervous and exhilarated and anxious and scared and I thought, I could use John's input and encouragement right about now! Then the door opened and I was asked to come in….

Monday, March 15, 2010

Pitchmen Season 2: Night Before

From late November until January John and I have slowly been working on finding partners to manufacture our product and on January 20th 2010, Sara Burns from the Original Production company reaches out to me. She works for the production company that produces Pitchmen and other fine reality shows. She requested pictures, videos and information on the CharBQ. Naturally, we complied and shortly there after, we deliver as requested. Then on January 25th, she send off another email asking us if we are going to attend the "will call" for season two of the Pitchmen on January 29th… four days to plan and prepare!!! After speaking with my wife Linda and John, we decide that I should attend and do my best. And so, the following day, Tuesday evening, I book my flight, hotel and car. My flight leaves on Thursday evening at 4 pm and arrive in LA at 8:30 pm.
I guess you are wondering why John could not attend? Two issues, 1. he, and his family, had just got back from a week long vacation 2. work obligations and a court filling due on Friday.
On Thursday, I prepare to leave and shut down my PC and just before I am set to shut down, precisely 1:28, an email from Sara arrives, asking that our pitches include statistics, people that might purchase and the flash of genius. I quickly as my writing team (John and Linda) to help me out with some text and so by the time I boarded the airplane I had additions to my pitch. Now it was up to me to learn the additions.
On Thursday, January 28th, I arrive in NC, yes I took a two leg flight, not ideal, I know. Anyway, by the first leg, I had the new addition roughly memorized. 45 minutes later, I board my second flight to LA where we arrive 30 minutes early! I make my way towards Hertz, rent my Subaru SUV and head towards Burbank. I make may way to North Hollywood to the Ramada hotel next to Bob Hope Airport. This took me 45 minutes and when I arrive, I check in, go to my room and unpack. I prepare my clothes, toiletries and the CharBQ. I set the alarm clock for 5 am, my iPhone for the same time and I'm in bed by 10:15. I force myself to go to sleep and I turn off the TV at 10:30. By 4 am, my body and mind woke me soul up and I began my routine, all the while reciting the pitch to myself. By 5 am, I checked out of the hotel and made my way to Madelyn Dance Studio, approximate 10 minutes away. I scope the area out for people and parking - no people and a lot of parking spots. Good. I now make my way to the local Starbucks for breakfast. After my meal, I head back to the studio and find that someone has parked in one of the many parking spots. I glance at the time, it's barely 6 am!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Meeting Aftermath, Part 2:

In my previous email with both Kenny and Charles, I had come to learn that they had a meeting on Monday, to discuss the CharBQ and other projects. With that information I waited a week before reaching out to Kenny. Then on November 13th, after placing calls and emails into Kenney, he informed me that Charles is no longer providing Industrial design services. That he is changing his business model to software apps for the smartphone platforms. With that, they cannot take on a project like ours, however, once we have a manufactured product, we should feel free to give them a call. And that is how this segment ends with Kevin Harrington. We are hopeful that when we have the tentative manufacturing in place, that we can secure a deal with Kevin. For now, plan B.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Website, Part 2: www.CharBQ.com

On November 9th, on our way into New York City for the IHMRS 2009 trade show for Penguin Bottling Company, John and I gravitate our discussion towards the CharBQ. We begin to conceptualize the YouTube video and our philosophy on these videos. Our plan was to have the CharBQ take a back seat to the comedy of the video. In doing so, we decided to Google the owners of the domain name CharBQ.com. The last time I did this research, there was a brick and mortar Baltimore company that sold barbecues who owned the site. Today, in our ride down, I discover that the name is up for grabs and when we arrive at our destination in New York, I secure the rights to CharBQ.com.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Meeting Aftermath, Part 1:

Needless to say, from September 30th until November 13th, the day we pick up the tail end of the Kevin Harrington story, John and I have been busy conceptualizing the "and more" portion of the product. While both John and I do not agree with Kevin, our attitude was to deliver the goods. This project, for us, was to get cash in our pockets and justify us as inventors. In the days after our meeting with Kenny, John and I had settling on a few items - a plan B.
During this time, we had concluded that if Kevin did not pick up the CharBQ project, we would take it on our own. We would create the prototypes, search for the manufacturing, look for angel investors and develop the YouTube and other videos/infomercials. We also would go back to the original concept of the CharBQ, as an insert and not a stand alone product. Perhaps, version two we would offer the adjustable legs and grills.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Reprise: Home Depot:

We was a giddy as school children leaving BlueWater media. We tore down the barbecue, collapsed the CharBQ, packed up the PT Cruiser and drove away. Back to Home Depot to attempt to return the BBQ. In the car, we could not believe our luck, could it be, could our luck have finally turned? Within fifteen minutes we arrive at the Home Depot store, with receipt in hand and a back story that my friend already owned a BBQ and that he did not need this unit. True to their return policy, they accepted the unit without delay and on our way out, we took the charcoal bag (we did not return this) and placed it next to the carts for whom ever finds it.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Kevin Harrington-Part 2:

During our time with Kevin, he brought in his secretary, a TV personality named Mark and one more to get a feeling for the CharBQ and its appeal. We performed our demonstration on the table, its ease of scalability and then outside, on the BBQ we had setup. It is during our indoor meeting that Kevin makes some strong recommendations regarding the CharBQ. His philosophy on product must contain these three line items, 1. Magically transformational, 2. Highly demonstrable, 3. he can sell it to anyone. He is not a fan of selling niche products. And so with those statements, he would like to have the unit be a stand alone, adjustable, portable BBQ and have the "but wait, there's more" it also converts your existing gas BBQ to a charcoal BBQ. Naturally, at the meeting, John and I both agree on this new development and by the time we arrive at home we have two methods of accomplishing this.
In the end, he turns to Kenny and informs him to get us set up with an NDA, asks us to leave a prototype behind and to get in touch with Charles, from Sparks Lab. After which, Kevin stands up, extends his hand as states "let's do some business together". And with that, for the next thirty minutes. we wrap things up with Kenny, sign an NDA with BlueWater Media and prepared an NDA with Charles. The meeting went better than we could have hoped!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Kevin Harrington-Part 1:

Kevin walks into the space and by this time, John and I have already pitched the CharBQ to Kenny, the intern and another colleague of Kenny's. Kenny passes his chair to Kevin, who was dressed in a collared shirt and jeans. He wasted no time introducing himself to us and extending his hand. We shake hands and introduce ourselves, he then takes a seat, opposite us and to the right of Kenny. Having done his homework on us, he begins by stating how much he adores stone crabs, knowledgeable of their season and how they compare to the blue crabs in MD.
Kevin spent an hour and a half with us, discussing his philosophies of the business, some of his current projects that he is working on and the CharBQ project. Here is a man, worth millions of dollars, working on multiple project, including projects from the TV show, Shark Tank and he takes 90 minutes of his life to meet with two goof ball inventors from MD.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

BlueWater Media-The Tour:

Kenny takes us on a tour of the facility, he walks past pre and post productions and discusses the multiple projects and experience that BlueWater Media has in this field. He states the connection with the big TV shows and personalities, like HSN and QVC. How they have many years of experience in producing infomercials, managing call centers and the customer experience. We walk past a few offices, one in particular, where Disney Audio was being recorded, caught my eye. He informed us of the importance of having such collaboration between the two companies and the benefits of the integration.

We continue along a pre determined path, on our way to the main lot where most of the infomercials are filmed. During the walk, I begin to have a fear of the meeting that I orchestrated. Here we are, in Florida, after spending $300 on air fare and $90 on a car rental only to have someone pitch me the facilities and capabilities of BlueWater Media. While I was ware of what BlueWater Media had to offer, did, somehow, my intentions get lost in the translation?

A fear that ran down the back of my spine, of what might have occurred? Was I clear on what this meeting was going to accomplish? I thought I was clear with Kenny when I informed him that we were looking for funding or a partnership for our product. That we did not have the cash flow to fund the project or the fact that we did not know anyone in the manufacturing. It was only later did I understand that the tour was intended to display the possibilities of what BlueWater Media had to offer to its clients and that we could be their client.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Pre-Meeting Setup:

We arrive at the one story non discrete looking building (we had used Google streets and examined pictures online to get an idea of the building size and layout) about 45 minutes before 2 pm. We quickly opened the hatchback, removed the BBQ and begin to assemble the barbecue. We walked over to the sidewalk and placed the barbecue under a shady tree, assembled the CharBQ added the charcoals and placed the unit inside the barbecue. Once we were happy with the location and look, we got back into to the car, and turned the AC up high to cool off. In the car we went over our game plan, once again, we discussed what the likely scenario of the meeting and what where the possible outcomes. We were certain that a deal would not be presented today and that the likely hood of leaving a unit behind was a possibility. Should the need to leave behind the unit was presented, we would have to ask for an NDA. We also anticipated that Kevin would join the meeting for a few minutes to hear the pitch and leave it to Kenny and Bobby to finish the meeting.
At 1:40, we got out of the car, I proceed to remove my shirt, open my carryon and take out a freshly pressed shirt. All clean and pressed for the meeting. We promptly walk in the door at 1:45 pm and announce our arrival to the receptionist who informs us that Kenny will be with us in a moment. Fifteen minutes go by at 2 pm, Kenny walks up and introduces himself to us. I take the lead and introduce my partner John and myself. We inform him that we have a demo BBQ outside the building ready for the meeting. He responded enthusiastically, the proceeded to give us a tour of the facility, prior to us sit down and discussing any of the particulars.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Home Depot:

We arrive at the Clear Water Home Depot around a quarter past noon and we immediately walked to the BBQ section. As expected, in Florida, they have not taken down their BBQ section or scaled back the offerings in the least bit. We examine each demo unit and in less than 10 minutes we had narrowed down our selection based on price and size. I then turn and find a helpful Home Depot woman and I politely ask her if they have this particular BBQ in stock? She replies positively. I then inform her that we just flew in from DC to see our friend who we have not seen in some time and we wanted to buy it for him as a house warming gift. We then ask her if they had any units pre built? To our surprise she states that we can take this unit - the demo unit.
Merrily we wheel the BBQ along with a bag of charcoal to the cash register and out the door. We practically skip down the parking lot to the PT Cruiser discussing how we have just saved ourselves at least an hour of build time! We get to the hatchback and realize that we should have rented a larger car.

For the next 15 minutes we analyze and discuss the best way to jab a 5 lb turkey into a 4.5 lb pan! We decide to remove the back seats out and take down some loose barbecue parts. We then gently and strategically proceed to jamb the BBQ into the small opening. After about 5 minutes of inserting the unit, we strategically replace the folded back seats into the back along with some loose BBQ parts. Thankfully the meeting place is only 15 minutes away, and that means that the unit will not experience too much movement.

Monday, March 1, 2010

The Meeting:

The day of the meeting, we caught a 9 am flight into Tampa Florida that brought us there by 11 am. Being betting men, we figured that should we lose one baggage, we would have the other on hand. And so, we each brought along one carry on luggage and each carry on contained one complete set of the CharBQ grill. The reason was simple, if the TSA denied us the ability to carry the stainless steel product onto the Southwest airplane, our backup plan was to check the luggage. With checking luggage there came uncertainly, would the bags would arrive on time and in one piece? In the end, no one questioned the CharBQ and both were carry-on bags were allowed on the plane.
After a non descriptive flight, discussing, yet again, the game plan, we arrived at our Florida airport destination. We went to the car rental area and retrieved our small PT Cruiser. We then drove to the local Home Depot for the remaining props.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Background Story Part 2:

As you can see, our lives were in chaos and when we heard that the requested date was September 30th, we were scrambling to push dates in any direction. And just when things looked bleak, the twins emerged one week early and talks with the GPS company broke down. Florida, here we come.

The Thursday before the meeting, I have an idea to purchase baseball caps and somehow have our slogan "Do you CharBQ? on the face of the caps. I spend a day, searching for a local vender or via the internet that would be able to have the hats created and shipped before our meeting on Wednesday. To my surprise, I discover a local company, in the Mall, who could take a design and convert it into a sewn on logo and not the iron on patch! On Monday afternoon we receive a call that the six white baseball caps with our logo have been completed and ready for pickup.
As the date of the flight slowly crept, we met to discuss the meeting, planning our moves and hoping for the best. We discussed, the presentation, were and how, what were we going to purchase and what are the acceptable losses.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Background Story Part 1:

During this time of our lives, many challenges lay before us. I, for one, have been unemployed since March 15th, and I have been slowly draining my savings/401K to pay the mortgage, monthly bills, living expenses and a failing real estate investment. On the plus side, in early September, I was in negotiations with a company to start work, as a sales representative for a GPS/Dbase trucking manufacturing company. The start date, a week before the 30th! Now before we get ahead of ourselves, the date I had given to the prospect company was in the beginning of September. I never expected a call, much less the ability to pitch the product, live!

On the other hand, John was in his own financial mess, he too had made some less than desirable real estate investments that were crashing down. In addition, a year ago he moved from a beautiful corner townhouse to a single family home and a year later, he still owned the townhouse along with the mortgage! Finally, to all of his financial turmoil, John's and his wife, Dayna were pregnant with twins and a scheduled C section on, you guessed it, September 30th!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Important Replies

As you have read, we received very few replies, actually, only one, from Kevin Harrington and BlueWater Media. In the days ahead, Kenny reached out to us for more information after his review of our website. He had asked for us to submit a prototype for their monthly review of products, and trust me, they review over 100 a month! John and spoke about it, and even thought, we were in a tight financial bind, we pushed to see if they would take a meeting. To our surprise, Kenny and his team, accepted the idea and after two weeks of back and forth emailing to confirm date and times, September 30, 2009 at 2 pm was confirmed.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Emails:

Once we had the video and pictures in "the can", I feverishly attacked creating the videos for our, somewhat self imposed, deadline date. We needed to have the website live on 9/7/2009 for the submission to the Perfect Pitch, sponsored by Richard Brandson ( PerfectBusiness.com). This was an opportunity for entrepreneurs to pitch a business plan or idea and have the opportunity to be in front of Richard himself to obtain funding. Sad to say, we were rejected.
After the submission to Perfect Pitch, we turned our attention to companies and people in the infomercial space. People like Kevin Harrington, Sully, and Telebrands. Which brings us to the next round of email submissions. On 9/8/2009 an email to Sullivan Productions (Anthony "Sully" Sullivan's company, the partner of Billy Mays) his company replied a month later stating that they are no longer accepting submission and to try again for next season. Funny, we were planning on being in production by then! Another email went out on 9/9/2009 to Shark Tank, the show that pits angel investors against entrepreneurs looking for funding and partners. To date, we have not heard back for the Shark Tank people. A few days later, I emailed TeleBrands, the company that brands the "As seen on TV" items, and according to their website, if they do not reach out to us within two weeks, they are not interested in the submission. Needless to say, we have not heard from either one, and on the same day, at 10:30, pm I sent an email to Kevin Harrington, the infomercial king and to my surprise and shock a reply came back thirty minutes later! In the email he asked my to reach out to Bobby, the CEO of BlueWater Media who then asked me to reach out to Kenny Klepacki. This was the start of something. I hoped. Finally, on 9/18/2009 another email was sent to Sullivan Productions who referred me to Sarah Burns over at Original Production, the creators of Pitchmen and other reality shows on Discovery Channel. To date, no movement on this opportunity.

Monday, February 22, 2010


For the next few weeks, in preparation for our video debut, we began to write some copy. Naturally, I shared my ideas with John at which point he turns to me and states he had written some copy and he wants to surprise me with it. Well, that did not sit well with me and knowing how much pride John has in his work, it did not take too much coxing on my part for him to share. True to his persona, he took the ideas that we had and brought them to a new level. Much of which you hear today was John's doing.

With the weekend date set, my back yard as the location and my version of John's copy (with my own spin), I felt that we were ready to go. I began to envision how I would direct the shots, sequence and location. We were going to use John's Sony Handicam to recorded the pitches. On the day of the shoot, unfortunately, we needed to postpone the shoot due to inclement weather and rescheduled the shoot for the following Saturday.
Saturday, high noon, on the day of the shoot, the Ingrassia's walked over to my back yard. While his family quickly moved to the deck, John and I began to strategize on location. I wanted a more shady area, adjacent to the deck, while John desired a sunny spot in front of the deck. In the end, we filmed in both locations and left it up to me in the editing room to make things look good.
Like the pro's, we both had printed our copy and looked for a place to hang the copy, like a teleprompter. I, being the gentlemen, allowed John to pitch the product first, and truth be told, I was nervous. I told John that I would like to record this in segments, like the pro's. Unfortunately, he shot me down and wanted it all in one take. We took his monologue video and reviewed it on the PC, were we learned a few things.
Armed with the knowledge from the first, rough video, we tweaked the set by repositioning the charcoal, the CharBQ grill and the copy. Again, I played the part of the producer and John was the talent. We recorded in segments, in order and multiple shots for both John and myself. Then, we moved to the shady area and repeated the process. It took us approximately 3.5 to 4 hours, using two DVD disk and both prototype units.
Shooting was a blast, and I discovered a new found love, pitching products. Now for the hard part, learning to edit the video. After a week of many hours of edited, we had two main videos, with two different pitchmen styles. In the end, all videos, including the bloopers, were added to the website

Saturday, February 20, 2010

A hunting we will go:

In our usual routine, John and I would meet weekly to discuss Penguin Bottling Company and the CharBQ. And during our time apart, we would email and text message ideas. We both were creatively thinking about the CharBQ video and still images that we would need to act as our pitch. We agreed that we need to get a clean gas grill, and while we both owned grills, we knew neither grill would look good for the task and so John, had a plan.

The plan was simple, on bulk night, which happens monthly in Gaithersburg, MD, we would hunt down and pick up a used gas grill, buy and make whatever parts were necessary to make the unit look good and use it for the video and pictures. So, on bulk trash night, we set out on a search of a used barbecue. We simply needed a barbecue that was neither too big or too small, your typical barbecue.
Luck was on our side, on that night, we found a unit that fit our criteria. We hopped out of John's pickup truck and gently placed the barbecue in the bed of the pickup. Naturally, we continued on our quest for any other items that may be lying around. As we were making our rounds, picking up spare computer parts and shelving, we came across another barbecue. This one was even better that the one that we had in our truck bed. I turned and suggested to John that we perform a swap, remove the unit that stood on the owners curb with the unit that laid down in the back of his truck. Naturally, John would not hear of it and so we gently placed a second barbecue in the back of the pickup. Could you imagine the look on the homeowner's face the next morning? He would have awoken to find that his high end trashed barbecue was reduced it to a no frills, bare bones BBQ! I would have loved to see that reaction, in any event, the lower end unit was placed in front of my house for bulk pickup and the other unit (what you see in our video) was dropped off in my garage for repair and maintenance.
The next couple of days, I spent my daytime hours rebuilding the unit, removing the rusted out burners and flavor bar and cleaning and removing all of the grease. I gave the entire unit a good scrub, then painted and touch up the unit and made it as presentable as possible.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Prototype Two:

While prototype one cost us roughly $80, our next two prototypes would cost three time that amount. We knew we had to develop another polished prototype, with the new dimension that were derived from my research, along with the learned lessons from the first prototype (Ash Box). I began to develop the CAD drawing and in parallel, John worked on the patent submission documentation.
While the drawings took a little more than a day to develop, John had his hands full with the patent application. For you see, John was not a patent attorney, his specialty is in mergers and acquisitions. However, Penguin Bottling Company and our own personal finances placed us in a bind in hiring a patent attorney. So we decided to create and submit this application in house.
The drawing were completed before any of the patent paperwork was done and so with phone in hand, I started to call local machinist to price out the cost. However, since we have NOT applied for our patent, we feared that the idea may be stolen. How can I ask a machine shop to create the CharBQ without telling them how the devices works and its purpose? I thought of a cover story to protect the identity of the function. When I placed my calls to the local machinists, I informed them that I was helping out my artist friend who needed these "corners" for his sculpture project. To further mask there usage, I was placing an order for 9 "corners" that would somehow be used in a tower sculpture. I then added that my friend may use wire to attach and hold the units. Basically, I used my imagination and whatever made sense to "connect" the corners.
What I found amazing, was that in this tough economy, 2 out of 5 companies responded to my request. Granted, it was a small project, but a project, none-the-less! Eight days later, De Perini Sheet Metal Fabrication delivered our 9 units of glistening stainless steel corners, along with newly purchased bolts, wing nuts and handles (made from eye hooks and drawer handles) which produced our beautiful CharBQ units - prototype version 2, numbers two and three.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Website, Part 1: www.CharBQgrill.com

In today's market place, everyone has, and needs, a website and so it should come as no surprise that in addition to figuring out to name for the unit, we were also worked on discovering what website domain was available. On our car ride back from New York City, we began to GoDaddy a few names that we were favoring. Today, I cannot tell you the other names, however, as you have already read, the CharBQ was a clear favorite.
We searched the register, only to discover that CharBQ.com was taken by a BBQ reseller in Baltimore MD, not a manufacturer. While a little disappointed, we both agreed that CharBQ was the name and so, we considered alternatives. I adding the word grill to CharBQ and to our delight, it was available. As so, on September, 2009 we registered www.CharBQgrill.com on.

Keep in mind that at this point in time, the only reason we wanted to create a website was for the sole purpose of posting out pitch video and pictures to attract angel investors and partners. In my past, I had created many websites, PenguinIce.biz, Draghici.org and SoftRelam.com and so it would come to no surprise that I would also create this website. I knew that this website would be created using CSS and HTML/XML and in the end, the most challenging part was selecting the correct video format to post!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Working on the Name!

John and I meet weekly to discuss Penguin Bottling Company's future and at our next get together, we signed up to travel to New York City to attend a trade show for the company. It was a day trip and so John agreed to drive his truck there and back. It was on our car ride north, that we discussed the Ash Box. We both acknowledged that the Ash Box was only a working title and not the final name and that we needed to give out product a name.

To step back in time, since, the lighting up and testing of the prototype over at John's house and prior to our New York City trip, John has discussed, used and demonstrated the prototype to a few of his neighbors. All of the reviews, and there were a dozen, came back positive. Some loved the concept of converting a gas grill while others treasured the simplicity of the product, however, all had issues with the name. While both John and I knew it was only a working title, the name kept haunting us. Our friends and neighbors would call the unit The Ash Tray or The Ash Can and while the original function of the idea was for the containment of ash, it has evolved into a cooking unit. And we knew that no one would want to buy an Ash anything!!!
Back to the car ride north, we were trying to marry two words to mean how the product functions. We know we liked Barbecue, Charcoal and BBQ and so we began to brainstorm and Google names. In the end, we married Char for charcoals and BQ for BBQ and the only issue was do we hyphenate or not? Should it be Char-BQ or CharBQ? In the end, we both agree that we never did settle the choice, until I selected CharBQ for the website text.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Prototype One:

In the middle of all of this measuring and designing, late one night, John and I went to our local Lowes and purchased four steel sheets, nuts/bolts and went to John's garage and began work on our first prototype. Ironically, this prototype was used many times in our cooking tests and as of today, it is still functioning! I digress, to get the steel in the shape that wee needed, we used a hammer and the edge of the hand truck to bend the steel sheets into an "L" shape. After 30 minutes, we discovered the simplicity of the Ash Box.
We put the four pieces together, and easily slid the units into a variety of sizes, proving that the Ash Box can easily adjust to any size grill. We then drilled some random holes into the unit to fasten the Ash Box with the nuts and bolts. To finish the prototype, we used wire hanger to created two handles with hooks and like two proud parents, the Ash Box looked beautiful! The next step was to test the usability of the product under the extreme temperatures of cooking.
The next evening, I walked over to John's house to see if the Ash Box can deliver. We stepped in front of his Gas Grill, removed the grill cover, then the flavor bar. I took the Ash Box and placed it inside the opening, sized the unit and inserted the nuts and bolts to a finger tight hold. He laid in the charcoal and replaced the grills. John then took the lighter fluid and coated some of the charcoals, took a match an light the unit. In a few seconds we had a roaring flame. He closed the lid and 30 minutes later we were cooking with charcoal on his gas grill. Another proud moment, it was like watching your child achieve greatness!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Flash of Genius - Part Two

During the next week, John and I separately worked on the ability to adjust the unit. Then one day I get a call from John and he asked me to check out an origami video on how to make an adjustable box. If you are not familiar with this methodology, origami is the traditional Japanese art of paper folding . The video that was posted on Youtube, it created a complex adjustable box in this artistic style. While I liked the concept, the origami box was to complex and convoluted for our usage. However, in theory, that was what we wanted, a self contained adjustable box. Again, after reflecting on the video, we developed and refined the adjustability.

Once the mechanism to adjust in either direction was conceived, we went to work on finding the proper height and size of the unit. Since, I was unemployed at the time, I drove to the local home improvement stores with paper, pen and tape measure in hand. I would walk up to every barbecue and measure the inside of the units. On multiple occasions, people confused me with being a representative of the BBQ manufactures and began to ask me questions. Diligently, I took width, depth and height measurements of all of the BBQ unites that were Gas, and entered the information into an Excel spread sheet. I poured over the two in a half dozen or so units and settled on a length, width and height for the unit.
After determining the unit's size, I went to work on the unit's hole, placements and dimensions. These numbers were based on the width and length of the unit at its full extension. After the wholes were placed, John added the usage of wing nuts and bolts to lock the units' four corners together. The look of the handles came to me while rummaging at the local Lowes, I combined a fancy kitchen drawer handle with "J" hooks, put them together and we had our handles.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Side Note: Seeking author of BBQ cookbook to partner with inventors

Seeking author of BBQ 10-50 page cookbook to partner with inventors of new BBQ accessory, the Charbq – www.charbq.com. We are bringing the patent pending Charbq to market through the ecommerce and direct response marketing channels and are actively seeking to partner with a BBQ cookbook author on a cost and revenue sharing basis. If you have published or are trying to publish a BBQ cookbook specifically aimed at charcoal cooking and smoking, we would like to speak with you about a possible partnership that would bring our complimentary products to market through a combined marketing program.

Flash of Genius - Part One

One Saturday morning, John and I were driving up to Frederick Maryland to met with a prospective sales agent for Penguin Bottling Company. This 45 minute drive north, we were discussing various ideas and inventions, from the VersaCup to a new idea, an external fire extinguisher for homes. The VersaCup was stuck in neutral, we could not figure out a viable solution for the material to be flexible to hold iPhones to food. A quick Google search on my fire extinguisher for the homes proved that someone else already holds a patent and multiple products on the market. Then about half way into our drive, we turned our attention to the up and coming luau and our pig roster.
This year, we decided that we would not add to the roaster or tweak the unit, however, we opened up the possibility for next year's upgrade. After a few minutes, we re focused our attention on the after party, specifically the cleaning of the pig roaster. We discussed the possibility of adding a pan to the bottom of the pig roaster, so that at the end of the day, rather than having to remove the barrel and dump the unit, we could simply remove the box and dispense the ashes.
We continued to discuss how the Ash Box would function, John suggested the need for removable handles so the heat would not hold us back when we needing to dump the ashes in the morning. And as we discussed these details, we were about 2 minutes away from the meeting location, when John thought, why limit the use to only the pig roaster? Why not use the Ash Box in a traditional gas BBQ? This would convert any existing gas BBQ into a charcoal BBQ, then remove the unit during the week for quick gas BBQ cooking.
After our meeting with the prospective sales agent, we got back into John's truck and immediately we were tossing out ideas on how to get the Ash Box to become fully adjustable, to any size grill. This inspiration and function would not be flushed out today, it would take a week or so and the answer came from the art of origami.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Back in time

For over 20 years, John and I have always worked amazingly well together. We each bring to the table a unique perspective to a project, concept or business and the CharBQ was no exception. Prior to the CharBQ grill, our first real business together was, Penguin Bottling Company, the manufacturer of Penguin Ice premium Canadian spring waters. This company was the only other monetary project we worked on together, while all of the other projects were, modifications to existing inventions that produced self happiness.
So, back in 2005 we created a portable pig roaster made from a barrel, metal plates, four wheels, switches, roof fan for exhaust, lighting and 6 different electrical circuits. This was our pride and joy, every year we would modify some aspect of the roaster to enhance the look or functionality. For example, the roaster went from a hand crank to an electrical motor, from a single circuit to six and from on/off switches to sliders. We enjoyed the project. In later years, we would collaborate on other ideas, from parade floats to treasure hunts, from luau parties to inventions. And it was in 2009 that I was on an inventors' kick.
Mid summer of 2009, I was working on the VersaCup, an oversized cup holder that would fit in an automobile's cup holder and allow it to hold any object, from an iPhone to french fries. I had informed John of my idea and he took it to the next level, at the same time, we were gearing up for our annual Luau, which meant that we needed to prepare the pig roaster, clean her up, and make any fixes or adjustments. This was our mindset.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Created the blog site

Welcome to the CharBQ blog site. My intention is to post the history and the future of the CharBQ grill.