The Coolest Cooler broke all Kickstarter records when it was funded last August. But the idea for this party in a box had humble beginnings. Its Portland-based inventor once used parts from a weed whacker to power a blender to bring to the beach. He later thought of adding speakers to a cooler. Photo courtesy of Coolest Cooler
By Anthony St. Clair
For the Oregon Beer Growler
“One year someone gave me an old weed whacker and I had no lawn,” says Ryan Grepper, Portland-based inventor of the Coolest Cooler. “I’m all about efficiency and a lifelong inventor, so I was inspired to take that weed whacker and use it to power a blender for cool drinks at the beach.”
Another idea — put a car speaker in a cooler for portable sound — made Grepper realize the cooler could be more than just a cooler. It could be a party in a box.
“The response from my friends was incredible,” says Grepper. “I began to think that I might have a real product on my hands.”
From there — and after both failure and a record-breaking success — the Coolest was born.
Birth of the Coolest
The idea behind Coolest became finding a way to have a cooler combine shindig essentials.
“People want higher-quality and more features in a cooler beyond just hauling ice,” says Grepper. “No one wants fewer blended drinks on a hot day out with friends and family.”
That’s where Grepper found his sweet spot. The colorful cooler (available in Classic Coolest Orange, Coolest Blue Moon and Coolest Margarita Green) is smartly designed to compactly include a lot in one 55-quart, 26 inches long, 21 inches wide, 19 inches high package:
--Bottle opener with magnetic cap catcher
--Built-in ice-crushing blender with BPA-free plastic pitcher (makes a pitcher of cocktails in about 15 seconds, for approximately 16 pitchers per charge)
--Removable splash-proof Bluetooth/auxiliary jack speaker with resonating panel, protected by a silicon shell, and powered by a separate, built-in rechargeable lithium-ion battery (eight hours of audio per charge)
--Custom-made rechargeable battery pack (powers blender, USB charging port and built-in LED task light)
--Prep area complete with plates, a ceramic paring knife and a cutting board
Rugged wheels and an extendable suitcase-style handle means the cooler is made for easy-anywhere transport, and a “Done in One” retractable bungee tie-down straps things to the top of the Coolest. Combined weight (with gadgets but without ice or your favorite Oregon craft beer) is about 30 pounds.
Oh, it keeps stuff cold too.
At $485 (MSRP), it’s “the Coolest cooler,” not “the cheapest cooler.” But for the serious shindig fan who doesn’t want to assemble and haul these components separately, and who knows they can use the all-inclusive design to the fullest, it will be cool cash well spent.
First-Time Failure, Second-Time Success
Once Grepper had a viable product, in November 2013 he launched a Kickstarter campaign seeking $125,000. Backers committed $100,000 — but under Kickstarter’s goals, falling short means no funding.
Grepper went back to the drawing board. After improving features and design, on July 8, 2014, Grepper launched a new Kickstarter campaign, this time for only $50,000.
Less than 36 hours later, Coolest had met its funding goal — and within 48 hours had raised more than $1 million.
“It’s not only cool … it cools. Get it?” That was the word from Bill Nye the Science Guy, who in a YouTube video discussed his support and admiration for the design and innovation behind Coolest.
By the time the campaign ended on Aug. 29, 2014, 62,642 backers had funded Coolest with $13,285,226 — breaking Kickstarter records.
Which led to a new set of problems.
“Coming in at 26,000 percent to goal is a challenge, but it's a good problem to have,” says Grepper. “We’ve had to quickly scale up and bring in outside experts to help us execute on every stage of this process, and it's been a challenge moving at full speed while managing the process. In the end, we're all very proud of achieving such a high level of quality in such a short time.”
One challenge was scaling up production, which meant delaying when Coolests could be shipped to Kickstarter backers. Instead of February 2015, backers began receiving Coolests in August.
By November, Grepper expects all Kickstarter backers to have their Coolests. The company is also at work to fulfill the additional 200,000 orders on their waiting list. The public should be able to order online from Coolest.com beginning in November. The company is also exploring distribution and retail options for 2016.
“We’re pushing our suppliers hard to scale up production speed while keeping tight reigns on quality,” explains Grepper.
However, Coolests are out there. “We're seeing camping trips, family reunions, tailgating, you name it,” says Grepper. “It’s been so rewarding to hear the praise coming from people as they first get a chance to use their Coolest. My favorite quote so far has been someone saying it should get the Pulitzer Prize for party coolers.”
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