U.S. Chamber of Commerce - FireDisc Brothers Reinvent Outdoor Cooking
FireDisc Brothers Reinvent Outdoor Cooking with a Business That Gives Back
In this edition of "The Leap," entrepreneur brothers Griff and Hunter Jaggard, co-founders of FireDisc, on what inspired their extremely popular outdoor cooking business.
Invent something without peer. Not a turbo-charged version of an existing product but an innovation that begs explanation because the market has never seen it before. Then, abandon successful careers in commercial real estate in order to get this new idea off the ground.
That’s not one leap. That’s two.
FireDisc CEO Hunter Jaggard and his brother and co-founder Griff Jaggard, president, made those bold moves in 2010. Today the outdoor cooker business they co-founded is among the country’s fastest growing private companies. With three-year revenue growth of 1,330%, FireDisc ranks No. 374 on Inc.magazine’s 2018 Inc. 5,000 list.
Reinventing the 'discada'
The seeds of inspiration for the FireDisc came from a rural cooking method known as “discada” that uses a converted farm plow disc to cook food. Ranchers in the southwest and other parts of the world used the concave farm implement as a cooking surface to feed large groups of field workers and the Jaggards saw an opportunity to bring this cooking method to outdoor sports and recreation enthusiasts.
Starting with a metal plow disc used to till soil, the brothers enlisted a number of local welders to create prototypes leading to the FireDisc Cooker with portability, durability and versatility not offered by other products on the market.
“Nobody knew what it was. Is it a grill? Is it a pot?” Hunter said.
Resembling a Chinese wok and powered by a propane tank the size of a shampoo bottle, the FireDisc Cooker was a whole new design, a new concept and FireDisc had to educate the consumer, said Griff.
“It was a total leap of faith,” said Hunter. There are a lot of grills on the market but nobody was going after the high-end portability niche, the brothers said.
Portable, inexpensive grills are often small, flimsy and discarded at the end of a camping trip only to be purchased again for the next excursion; high-end grills are durable but designed to stay put in the backyard on a level surface – not suited for the beach or rocky terrain and certainly not the slick surface outside an ice fishing shanty.
The Jaggard brothers spotted an unmet need for outdoor enthusiasts: a sturdy, collapsible, go-anywhere cooker with surface capacity to feed a crowd that withstands the punishment of portability. FireDisc Cookers sell for upward of $400.
As Griff and Hunter built FireDisc, which is based in Katy, Texas, expanding distribution across a wide retail landscape, rolling out new cooking accessories and securing a production partner overseas, the brothers continued working their day jobs in commercial real estate for five years. In 2016, they quit those jobs to devote themselves full-time to FireDisc.
“Continuing to work full-time in real estate while trying to nurture a growing company was not the path forward,” Hunter said. “You can only be halfway good at both.” At this point, the FireDisc Cooker was being sold in 300 stores including convenience, grocery, hardware and specialty stores. It was time to secure private equity funding to finance inventory and hire staff.
“On the decision to go full-time, Griff and I were confident enough to figure it out, make it work. But when you hire other people, you start involving other families in this,” Hunter said. “We want everyone involved to be successful and that was stressful.”
It was a total leap of faith. There are a lot of grills on the market but nobody was going after the high-end portability niche.
Griff and Hunter Jaggard, FireDisc co-founders
The FireDisc Cooker built a following with outdoor enthusiasts but it was not an overnight success. Initial growth was gradual and deliberate.
“Revenue growth is key for us. Some companies grow too fast and [that starts] to create problems,” said Hunter. “We are blessed to have a good partnership with our investors. We are on the same page – let’s do slow growth and build the company right, get around our customers so they believe in the brand and we honor what we started with FireDisc.”
When the search for a U.S. manufacturer proved unsuccessful at meeting quality and profitability targets, the brothers partnered with a manufacturer in China that could produce at the scale – and quality – needed.
“You need to make sure that your manufacturer has the same stickler mentality for quality that you do, especially manufacturers located overseas,” said Hunter. “That was extremely important. If there is a little paint that is just a millimeter off, he catches it.”
Commitment to quality construction remains a top priority. “The market is tired of buying stuff that falls apart,” Hunter added.
“Hunter’s whole deal was we didn’t want to have customer service [issues] when we started. So we built a tank,” Griff said. “There were little pieces we wanted to add on and thought, ‘You know what? Let’s not add that. It’s going to break. Let’s build it simple.’ That has helped. We don’t have a lot of returns.”
In fact, with an enviously high Net Promoter Score (NPS) score of 91, customer satisfaction with the FireDisc Cooker is through the roof.The inspiration for the FireDisc Cooker comes from a rural cooking method that uses converted farm equipment.
From cooking to riding
Passion for outdoor disc cooking is rivaled only by the Jaggard brothers’ dedication to their chosen causes, including working towards a cure for multiple sclerosis (MS). Through their nonprofit cycling team called Carney Men, they raise funds for research in hopes of improving the lives of those affected by the disease, including Griff, who was diagnosed with MS at the age of 22 while a student at Texas Tech University.
The Carney Men’s first ride in 2004 – for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society’s MS 150 ride from Houston to Austin – raised more than $6,500. The next year, donations more than quadrupled. In the years that followed, more than $1 million would be raised by the team.
Both men take part in the 150-mile ride for MS; Hunter has done the trek 18 times and Griff, 15 times. The brothers continue to expand their philanthropic efforts to include the National Breast Cancer Foundation, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, local firefighters, Bridges to Life, the Center for Hearing and Speech and others.
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