Three weeks ago, millions of television viewers watched Denver’s Joshua Thurmond reach a deal with investor Lori Greiner on the hit show “Shark Tank.”
On Monday, however, the founder of the portable campfire company LavaBox told BusinessDen he’d decided that day — nearly a year after the episode was filmed — not to sign the deal.
“I did want it to work out, but it’s difficult to give up 12.5 percent of your company that you built … we’re not in dire straits on cash so it was really about her leadership and mentorship,” said Thurmond, 47.
LavaBox was born three years ago when, joking with friends on a rafting trip during peak forest fire season, Thurmond got the idea to create a portable, safe campfire.
He went home, and within a week created seven versions using a military-style ammo box. He made a website, launched LavaBox and sold 4o within two weeks.
“It was kind of crazy proofing, like this is gonna work, this thing has legs,” Thurmond said.
The company now offers three versions: Tabletop Vol-CAN-no for $179, Hekla for $329 and The Krakatoa FireBreather for $349. It also sells a patented grill attachment and propane tank cover. Products are available online and in 35 small retailers across the country.
Thurmond said it costs $29 to get LavaBox components delivered to the company’s 5,000 square-foot space at 4800 Washington St. in Globeville. Products are then assembled by Thurmond and his friends Jeff Matchette and Adam Tymn.
Thurmond said he applied for Shark Tank shortly after launching the company. The show features entrepreneurs pitching their products to a panel of five investors, or “sharks.” The LavaBox segment was filmed in June.
“I was trying to find a way to get more eyeballs on the product,” Thurmond said. “I’m a peak life experience seeker, and thought this will be much cooler than sitting in a meeting with a bunch of investors.”
Thurmond asked for $200,000 for 10 percent equity of the company. Three of the sharks swam after a deal: Kevin O’Leary, known as “Mr. Wonderful,” Daymond John and Lori Greiner.
“I think you have to go with your gut and you go with what’s right,” Greiner advised Thurmond.
He accepted Greiner’s offer of $200,000 for 12.5 percent equity and a royalty of 75 cents per unit until paid back. Greiner is most known for her appearances on the shopping network QVC.
“I think she’s the queen of small product sales,” he said. “I really thought she was the best for the job.”
But Thurmond said the deal came to a “bittersweet” end this week after both parties agreed it was best to walk away. Thurmond said the experience was worthwhile, and noted that the company sold 260 units in a day after the episode aired – what it usually sells in a month.
LavaBox isn’t the only Denver company to not see a “Shark Tank” deal come through. Golfkicks agreed to Mark Cuban’s offer of $300,000 for a 13 percent stake in the company in 2019, but it never came to fruition because of legal hurdles.
Thurmond said LavaBox brought in $1 million in revenue last year and is on track to hit $2 million this year, but that he’s not sure how far he wants to grow the company. Up to this point, he’s “bootstrapped” the business, and he only wants to take investors if it feels like a good fit.
“This was a means to an end, this was a way to stop wildfires,” Thurmond said. “It’s actually a more important question now, do I want to scale to a certain size? I really like the pace we’re at now.”