Turns out it's far easier to stir up crowdfunding supporters for a survival tool — one its creator featured in a Kickstarter video as the go-to weapon to ward off zombies — than it is to find a U.S. manufacturer to make it.
Philadelphia-area inventor Marvin Weinberger launched that Kickstarter campaign two years ago, raising $123,310 from 1,302 people to help fund production of a multipurpose instrument inspired by the needs of firefighters and outdoor adventurers — part ax, part hammer with a box cutter, can opener and more.
The Kickstarter total was nearly five times the $25,000 goal, rendering serial entrepreneur Weinberger "blown away" and giddy about the sales prospects. But then he couldn't find a U.S. manufacturer that would take such a small order, a problem he found out many start-ups have.
He finally found a manufacturer, to meet his business plan $89 retail price, in southern Utah, two-year-old Bear Valley Precision Casting.
Most "led to dead ends with various manufacturers, who in the end really couldn't produce affordably that change," he said, citing original all-in costs close to $70. That would mean a retail price of $125 to $150. Weinberger was aiming for $89.
Bear Valley founder Jared Meibos found Weinberger's project proposal on an online manufacturing marketplace, and immediately recognized its potential. He was impressed by the response to the Kickstarter campaign and by how well the Trucker's Friend, another tool made by Weinberger's Innovation Factory, has done.
With only a couple other customers, Bear Valley had the capacity to make the product Weinberger renamed Survival Axe Elite on the advice of retailers.
The two worked back and forth to further refine the design, and Survival Axe Elite starting shipping to generally patient Kickstarter backers earlier this month (some refunds had to be given). It comes complete with a lifetime warranty from Madison Lake, Minn.-based Nifty Home Products, to which Weinberger has licensed the rights for an undisclosed royalty. Weinberger intends to collaborate with Nifty on future products as well.