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 ( 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:

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 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 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,, and 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 – 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.