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July 25, 2023
John Rizvi, Esq.

Prime 6 ® Charcoal Inventors Riki and Oron Franco Interview – Sustainable Grilling - 877-728-7763

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00:00

Happy Friday, guys. Welcome to the show. Hey, this is for those of you who are just joining in, I see plenty of participants coming in now, we have Franco and Ricky, they're an amazing, inspiring inventing couple. They have a natural charcoal product that's made from hardwoods saw dust. And in a minute, we're gonna see a short video for those that might not be familiar with the product. And you might not because they have an incredible journey that's really compressed as far as investing goes, because from an idea in 2018, they brought the product to market in 2019, and had like incredible success right off the bat, like over $300,000 in sales. I don't remember if it was within six months or within 12 months, but it's an incredible statistic, especially for a new product launch. And then the Shark Tank, appearance and everything else. So there's a lot we're going to cover. But for now Jenny, if you can play the short video with like an overview

01:13

on fracking for Prime six. And today we're gonna talk about prime six, how it's made, and why it's different than other troubles. With your your most popular two kinds of charcoal, we have the briquette, which is basically charcoal powder carbonized. Sawdust mixed in with a binder are an accelerant for me to these forms left to dry use as charcoal. And you have your typical, basically pieces of hardwood, that are carbonized. And turning interesting. Prime six offers the best of both worlds. It's a third category charcoal, what we basically do this take rassada hardware and compress it back into we're basically creating lumpwood r1, over three times denser than any lumpwood. Then we take this with and we carbonize it for over 15 days, we get to over 90% Pure carbon in each bucket. That's why each of these briquettes weighs about four times more than the equivalent size lump. This gives you a charcoal that is consistent in density all over so you get consistent heat for a very long time. Thank you for watching this video for more information and tips on how to use our products. Go to prime six.com.

02:30

Yeah, so

02:31

yeah, that's me.

02:34

Yep. Truth in advertising, right, like so there you have it. There's the founder. And we have Franco here. And his wife wiki. And, you know, it's got to start out with that I'm sure in vending as a couple has unique challenges of its own. What were you guys doing prior to this idea? And I know, this is not your first startup. But let's start kind of at the beginning.

03:02

How far back when we

03:05

when you were born, and

03:10

maybe we can start with the private chef NYC thing. This was our first

03:14

Yeah, I mean, we we have three this is our third or third venture together. i My background is hospitality, mainly the back of the house. So I I came to New York to go to culinary school. And that was a dream of mine since I was about 12 years old. I spent the majority of my of my professional life and kitchens in New York, and slowly moved to the the operational side of it. And at some point started cooking for people in their house as a side job. And I think we both kind of realized the potential of that business and our first venture was born. It was called the private chef NYC and we did private dinners, cooking classes, a very, very boutique, very curated kind of work. We did that for I think about two or three years.

04:09

Probably three years. Yeah, I would say. And after that. That was a time that we went back home to Israel because of a family emergency. And a new passion has emerged. Israel is known for being the tech bubble of the world. So everything is kind of contagious. Everybody is an entrepreneur, everybody wants to be an entrepreneur and me. We were part of that. of that environment there and this is where feed me was born. It was a food startup that curated culinary experiences and stories, whether there are recipes or not Um, restaurant reviews or travel and leisure, everything around food. And we ran that for three years, we were in accelerators in Israel. And then we moved to San Francisco to an accelerator, and we ended up back in New York City. And after three years of raising money and running the business, the product wasn't really there and needed some extra funding. We were kind of tired of it, as well. And we decided to shut it down in 2016. This was really the last venture before prime six. And then two years later, after each of us kind of had a separate career. We sat one day, when we were five months pregnant with our second child, and thought to herself, this is a great time to reinvent ourselves and become entrepreneurs again. And this is how prime six came to life about three years

06:00

ago. Okay, and it wasn't, it's what's interesting is that it's not like you're new to barbecuing, that was you took a passion that was a hobby, and something that you loved doing anyway. You know, then you I seen some of your your other interviews, and you talk about like, like in the backyard being outside, that just that environment with the family and with your kids. It kind of fueled the concept of okay, there's got a better way. And it's so it's funny, because, you know, like, cooking with fire is not anything new, right? You took an area that's normally not seen as an area of technical innovation, right? It's not like you have an app for an iPhone or something where the mind first goes to oh, let's innovate a new, unique way of doing something here you're cooking with with fire. You know, traditionally, you've got charcoal, you've got wood, bring us to the beginning, like the apps, like what was the downsides, you saw with traditional charcoal that others didn't see. And sometimes it's not until a product is out there that people realize how bad the alternative was, I'll think of one. One quick example. And then I'll let you go like, the post it note is really replacing for the most part, tape, and paper, which has been around forever. And then nobody really realized the advantage of having removable glue. And these post, its until 3am started giving them away for free. And then once you get hooked on them, you're like, gosh, I don't want to use a piece of tape and paper anymore. So with that backdrop, tell us a little bit about the start and why, you know most entrepreneurs, they see a problem in existing solutions, and then they try to address that. So describe the problem that you guys saw.

08:03

I think it's it's, it's not like this one huge problem that that was there that everybody was trying to attack. And I think that's why the field has been neglected for so long, when there hasn't been really much change in charcoal. Probably the last innovation charcoal was Henry Ford trading the briquettes, what about a little over 100 years ago, all right. But there are, I think a lot of things that you do in life processes that there's like little things that you said, If only this was a little better. And if only that was a little better. And it doesn't look like a big problem. But when you sum them all up, it does. And a lot of these things did exist in the in the in the grilling experience. So I mean briquettes, for example, they're great. They usually like the ones that match by the light by themselves, very easy, but they're out in about 45 minutes. So by the time you're ready to grill or you're always afraid of running out of fire, while you're cooking, binders, additives fuels, things that you don't want. You don't want in your charcoal, but the bucket is a very consistent product, it's always made the same. Depending on the brand that you like that you buy, it has the same ingredients, same structure the same size. So whatever the performance is good or bad, it's consistent. Love, on the other hand, on the other hand, has, you know, no binders, it is natural. It is an actual product, but you're at the mercy of a lot of factors you're at the mercy of mother nature, and you know what the, the the lifecycle of the tree was to dictate the density and then when you buy a bag of lump, different sizes, different density, a lot of the bag about 10 15% of the bag is actually so small chips so so that it doesn't really do anything for you. You still pay for it and the grace you know, weight of of the purchase. So it's a lot of little things. It won't stop you from grilling, but if you can eliminate all that and all the disadvantages and have one One product that gives you the best of both worlds, and is sustainable. And we're also a mission, you know, an impact company. So there's another layer of thought on top of that, then, you know, produce it present it. And, and that's the innovation.

10:18

I will add that when we, you know, because the the first idea was, let's see what we can do, it wasn't, we know we didn't set up to revolutionize or to create anything that would revolutionize we wanted to test it and see if we can create something that would be different than what's out there. Because this is the land of grilling, we're coming from a culture that has been that is used to celebrating outdoors, everything is around food and family and friends. So it was a natural step for us to take in that specific category. It wasn't a natural step to take, it wasn't something that we've dreamed about. But it was an opportunity that we wanted to see if we can, you know, if we can really create. And mind you the product exists in Asia for a long time. But what we did is we changed the way that it then it was manufactured. So we reverse the process, when you have a briquette. Usually, you you are organizing the sawdust, and then that mush is being binded with a glue or an accelerant or some sort of a binder and molded into a shape. What we did is we use the sawdust as a raw ingredient, and then use the natural materials, the natural oils of that sawdust of the word with a high compression machine and created this log. And there's

12:08

absolutely no binders whatsoever in that there's no there's no glue, there's no binders, there's nothing other than the sawdust and as you say, the natural oil like that's, that's remarkable. I mean, I it's that's the part that I think as an engineer, and I don't I know, there's a lot more. I don't want to get too much into the details of how that's done. But it's just fascinating. But it's interesting is that that technology of the compression is not something you had to invent it already existed. You just took existing technology and used it in a new way that hasn't been used before. And that's classic innovation. And sometimes it's surprising to inventors, who think that they've got to, like just completely create from scratch instead of borrow things from different fields and just apply them differently.

13:03

Correct. Exactly. And, and that's really how this is all started. And then this log became this charcoal. And we sent it out to pitmasters in the US to see how we're doing. And when we got the feedback that this was a kick ass product and the best performance that they've ever experienced that it was consistent with heat for a long period of time. And all of the other benefits that we get were attributed then we knew that we had a disruption right and that we can go again we can go not again so we can go and compete in a dinosaur market because this is what charcoal is and nobody else was doing it besides us. Then we moved to okay if we are going to be very different in the shape and the whole experience the brand itself should be sent what should be kind of standing or, or in a way stay stands for something that is different as well. And for us sustainability is very important. We are cooking all the time for our kids for our family, it's very important to us what we use and if we grill we want to make sure that we're using a charcoal or wood that are completely natural and so on top of using the sawdust as a as a waste, sawdust really it's a it's a byproduct of the wood industry and converting it into a product. We're also planting one tree with every purchase. So this is our commitment to standing out in that marketplace on top of the design and the branding and everything else.

14:56

Okay, so that's a concept that you know, But again, it's, it's, it's somewhat well known in that it's a new trend where companies and individuals and startups, they're doing well, but they're doing well by doing good. So the sada states using your product, a lot of it would otherwise end up in landfills. So it's like when you call it a waste product, that's what you mean, like it's basically thrown away by factories is, is having no use. So you took something that's otherwise just not good for the environment, it's filling up landfills. And then, remarkably, in your charcoal, instead of the food, you talked about 45 minutes is a typical briquette. But what is the burn time that your product offers?

15:47

Anywhere from for five to eight hours, a lot of it depends on you break it into into smaller pieces, it depends on the application also depends a lot on the airflow we have. We have a business in Florida that does smoking, and they use it in their smoker, and he's getting 18 hours of consistent heat from a third of a box, which for him was unheard of, because it's a known thing that it when you do, you know, low and slow smoking, usually it means you have to set a clock to an alarm clock to like 234 AM, wake up and feed your smoker, so you don't run out of heat, because eventually the charcoal does die off. And that's something that anybody who does smoking doesn't have to do anymore when they use forensics.

16:36

Okay, well, because that's I mean, and that's way beyond like an 18 hour sleep day would be an incredible amount of sleep. So there, you know, definitely be be safe with that. What were the were there any obstacles in prototyping that you had to overcome? I know you I saw the original log is obviously much larger. In how many prototypes? Or how many iterations did you have to go through, before you had the version that you went on Shark Tank with. And we'll get to the show as well in a second. But

17:13

it's kind of like a recipe that you try out. You change the compression, you change the the humidity, you change different components that are part of the process until you get something that you like, it didn't take long, it took maybe a few months, maybe two or three months until we got to the final version that we felt comfortable launching. I think the hardest part was after we went to market. You know, once when you have the prototype and the excitement of launching something that's, that's good, and then you go to market and you put it on the shelf, and you start worrying that people understand that they will buy it that they will enjoy it that you know that you can really get the consumer at the end of the day enjoying and understanding the value and getting the value that you want them to get from it.

18:11

So it's funny looking at you guys now and where the company is, and the sales and the final product. It can be intimidating for a lot of inventors that are early on in the process. But you're when you talk about getting it on store shelves, your initial sales were not from store shelves. I mean, I remember reading an interview about selling for the back of your car. Tell us a little bit about that. Because it's it's hard sometimes to envision where the product is now, and to go back in time and imagine it tumbled starts and it's it's funny in your case, because 2018 is not a decade ago, it all happens so quickly. But take us back to the beginning in the early sales. What did you have to do to get at least the first few people to take a chance on it? And

19:01

yeah, so the first time that we ever pitched a buyer was end of January 2019. I was nine months pregnant at the time. And we both walked to the buyers office, it was a mini chain of supermarkets in New York City. And we and we got the prototype of the packaging just two days before

19:25

and the only one that we that was the

19:28

only one we had. So we said if he if he wants to keep it that we don't have any. We don't have any more

19:35

display model right. It's one store so the display model because that's all they have.

19:40

Exactly. So we walked in and the strategy was obviously we had the deck we worked on the deck and the pitch and everything and we have that ready on the computer but we said because it's a face to face what we're gonna do, we're gonna put it on the table in front of him and we're just gonna wait to see the reaction and we will know where this is going. Um, so we walked in shake, you shook me shake hands and, and he was looking at the packaging, really just for like two, three minutes of silence. And then he said, What is the minimum order, just like that without asking anything else without reviewing the deck that we've worked hours on. And we said a container is a minimum, which was like 5000 units for a 17. store chain, it's a lot like you don't sell that much to us to 17 stores. And he said, Okay, he handed us over the vendor paperwork. And within four months, we put the the products on the shelf that was exactly two years ago. And then when we so we, we put the product on the shelf at the source. And then with the rest of the of the product that we had, we loaded the car, the back of the car, and we started going around New York City, to areas where we knew that people were grilling on a weekly basis. So places in Brooklyn and Queens and we just, you know, we took a sample with us, we asked to speak with the store manager, we kind of pitch them on the spot. And we we made a sale and we delivered it the next day. And so it was really kind of a lot of legwork to stores and restaurants. And this is how this is how we started exactly two years

21:36

ago. Wow. So and did you already have the sales in place when you went on Shark Tank?

21:45

We have we have it's funny because the people think like you apply, and then you just go on Shark Tank, because it's actually a few months from when you apply to when you actually get to film the show. So we had, you know, we had some sales. And one of the things that that you know, will help you get on the show eventually, is that you have to keep on growing. And so the the numbers kept growing and kept playing. Before we went on the show, which puts you I think in a better position when when you're pitching us to show that growth. But it was it's funny because it's we were two people you didn't know anything about packaging, what you're supposed to put on it, what you're not supposed to put on it. Did you learn as you go on, we got the vendor pack from from the first buyer. And that's the only that's the first time we actually realized what you need in order to become a vendor for a supermarket because we had no idea, the kinds of like insurance and logistics and trucking and warehouse, we had nothing we had that one box, right. So it's not just about going and delivering it. It's it's it's everything around it, that you have to learn how to do on the fly as you go. Because the buyers, the customers, the restaurants, they don't care, they want the product, you have to deliver this the price. This is when we want it. We had a restaurant in New York that was buying consistently the first restaurant that was buying consistently. And every time you have to go out, I went to the warehouse, I told, you know that people thought you know, I'm the delivery guy, she's the delivery guy, she's a salesperson, you're the CEO on the phone, you're you're the delivery guy in the car, you're the salesperson, you're everything, it's and on the off time, you're on Google understanding, you know, people send you a document, we need this, this and this, you don't even know what it is. These are the all these acronyms, that can mean like five different things and you go online and you figure it out. So it's it's just a whole, it's not just you know, the sales are important. Obviously, it's the number one thing that you have to have to show traction. But to get those sales, there's a whole system to support that. That is just a learn as you go process, which I think is is that the whole story.

23:57

And in in your case, the learning had to be done on a really compressed basis because of how quickly the product started taking off. So the sales is one thing that I think impressed the sharks and helped bring you to the top of the list in terms of who they audition and who they ultimately select. But you were very fortunate in that you also have protected the intellectual property involved. Even though as I started off kind of joking that it's you know, it's fire and charcoal and in wood, which is, you know, millions of years old technology, but by getting intellectual property protection and patents, that was something that caught the attention of the sharks as well. So tell us about about that and what impact that had.

24:44

Yeah, we actually, at the beginning, we were just focused on launching the product. We never we didn't really think about the patents until we felt like this has potential like we saw orders and we saw new customers And we saw the excitement and the feedback. This is when we realized we needed to protect the, the invention. And so we initially submitted what's called like, we ran a search to see that the process was not already published by a different manufacturer or person. And when we, when we realized that this was novel and innovative, we went on to submitting a provisional first in order to secure the date of the invention, and then we moved on to actually submitting the patents.

25:40

And now you have multiple patents, not just on the product itself, but also the packaging, because there's, there's unique aspects of the packaging.

25:50

Yeah, I mean, like I said, it's a lot of different little things that that you sometimes don't even think that you don't like until somebody offers you an alternative. Because of the quality of the product, you actually need less to get the equal experience of lump or briquettes. So we burn very hot, and we burn very long. So you don't need a 22 pound bag to do one Grilli, you actually, you can probably get away with less than the nine pound to get the equivalent. So if the package is small, then why do these these big bags that you carry out that you can't hold and that are hard to pour, and you have to rip it open? You think of the whole experience of grilling, and you want to you want to kind of like, bring that up a few levels? Yeah, elevate it, and you want to elevate everything from the way it's placed on the shelves to how it gets carried out? How is it, how it gets open. And the fact that once you open it, you know, if you don't use a whole bag, you want to be able to close your box and put it away. So so the packaging definitely was, you know, part of the innovation and for us, it's a whole thing is how do you protect your your brand overall, you're the trademark the name, it's everything that goes into it. And that you do file multiple patents and multiple IPs, that you say, Hey, this is because everything has a reason the name has a reason. It's like we didn't just say okay, that's called prime six, and then run with it.

27:24

That tell us about the reasoning and how you came about with prime six is is the name,

27:30

big whiteboard. phone in your hand and you Google stuff for inspiration. We were looking at charcoal, and we found out that actually can also be referred to atom number six or atomic number six. And there's ISIS that's a cool, you know, Atom atomic fire here. And six we have we know it's an exit, gone. So a lot of you know, a lot of like arrows and crossing.

27:59

And we wanted we wanted a name that will portray that this is a unique product. It's not the cowboy, right? It's not about being a cowboy. It's not about being anything else. But using something that's really premium in the way premium in the sense that it delivers a superior experience. And the word premium got stuck with us and then we shouldn't have to prime and the sixth of the hexagon made sense. And all of a sudden sounds like Chanel five. And so we said okay, we're gonna stick with prime six and see how that works.

28:41

Lovey, lovey. Can you hold up the final one of the units and we can see the six sides to hold up to the camera? That's one. Yeah, yeah. It will be close. Yep. Perfect. Okay, well, so was it always six sided? Or has the prototype also changed over time?

29:00

It was always six sided. There was always a hexagon. Yeah.

29:05

Okay. Yeah. Wonderful. Well, I know we're close on time. One of the things I like to end with is if you had one piece of advice for somebody new that starting out with a new idea, and based on what you've learned, not just the prime six, but you guys have also had experience with earlier ideas as well. What do you what is something that you wish somebody had told you in the early days that that you now get a chance to tell other inventors?

29:35

I have a long list? I will start with I will start with something that is very, very often, you know, you only read about CES, right? But the one thing I learned that success isn't linear. It's not a straight line. There are failures I Along the way they there are lesson learned there is left and right and backwards and stopping and rethinking and strategizing. And it goes in so many directions, that trajectory should be up. But it's never like that. So accepting that the journey is the way it is, as part of encompassing being an entrepreneur, in my opinion. And once, if you really have a product that is revolutionary, that is 1000 times better than what's out there, keep going, you'll hear a lot of nose. That's okay. A lot of times people don't get it the first time, they don't get it the second time. But if it's a really good product, it will catch on. And it was just the tenacity and the perseverance and the sheer belief and go getter ness of the entrepreneur that will get it to where it needs to go. That's my take. Yeah,

31:12

no, that's, that's perfect. And sometimes all of that has been summarized as great. And you ask, you know, that's what it takes. Because there are a lot of obstacles. There's, I'm sure you've had a lot of naysayers, that, that didn't see the potential and said, Why, you know, this is not going to work, you're wasting your time. You know, go back to your day jobs and whatever else. So there's, there's that journey, even though your journey was shorter, but it's still, too, it still took a lot, you know, three years, it's still not sure. I mean, in general to put your lives on hold and just focus on on this. Franco, did you want to add any?

31:49

You can hear 50 nodes, you only need one? Yes. It's not a it's not like equal, you know, pools. You know, you can get 100 I mean, I think it was in the autobiography of I forget his name, the the founder of Starbucks, that he pitched it to 47 investors? And the 48 said, yes. So that one is, was what had gotten him from, you know, from zero to two everything. So you just need that one. Yes. And I will add to that, I think like, product and product and user experiences, everything, everything around us, is you know, it's great to have, but be very attentive to the feedback that you get, don't be afraid to put the product in as many people's hands. That feedback that you'll get from your, from your customers from the early adopters will make you 100 times better, don't fall in love with what you think is right. I think it's a big lesson we learned from the tech venture that we were very in love with the product, like to say that we had we did the right way with the wrong products. And now we did the right way with the right product. So it's the product is is is the core and be focused on that. Don't you know, stray away from from that, you know, that I incur in your business?

33:12

Yeah, no, I love it. I mean, there's just so much gold and what you're saying me typically, I promise our viewers a half hour because of this pandemic, everyone's is kind of zoomed out. But it went over by a couple of minutes because I just think there's there's so much wisdom in what you're saying. And I it's funny that you've taken like a product experience in the user experience which usually people think about, you know that you mentioned Starbucks, like Starbucks did that with coffee, and it seemed like there was you know, coffee was just a commodity type item and there was very little innovation and a lot of their innovation was in the packaging as well I mean that that cardboard sleeve that goes on to the cup is really packaging and user experience I mean it the prior way was to use a double cup and this is just one way to differentiate and Jason wrench and the the inventor that patented that cardboard sleeve and licensing fees about a million dollars a year off of that so there's there's a lot to be said for packaging. So I know I see you're reading a lot and the journeys other inventors have taken and that part from Starbucks just comes to mind as well. So wonderful, wonderful idea that you have like great journey. If you want to Jenny if you want to type in the URL for if somebody wants to purchase where would they go to to buy I know it's available on Walmart Lowe's everywhere, but you have your own website as well tell us about that. And Jenny will put that in the chat box as well

34:48

as our website is crying dash six.com This is where you can find all of the tutorials and educational video Frequently Asked Questions I'm in the press Shark Tank videos, other videos and the product obviously to purchase and we are coming out with two additional product is summertime. So that will be posted shortly as well.

35:15

Perfect and is it prime dash six si X?

35:18

Yes. Yes, exactly.

35:20

Exactly is terrific. All right, thank you guys have a wonderful Friday for yourself for having us. Thank you. We're gonna have this interview in the vendors mastermind which is my private Facebook group as well. So, Jenny, you can put a link to that as well and we'll put a link to the interview online. Thank you so much. Have a wonderful weekend.

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