Employees: 4 (plus contractors)
Industry: Consumer & Lifestyle
Founder Tom DeFrancia is making coolers designed to survive anything the great outdoors can throw at them.
These aren't your parents' Coleman coolers. "It's a multigenerational piece of equipment," says DeFrancia. "You'd be hard pressed ever to throw this cooler away with its resale value and quality. It's not going to end up in the junkyard."
RovR's first run of outdoor-inspired, rugged, grizzly bear-resistant, bikeable, Colorado-made RollR 85 coolers sold out in its first year, with a retail price starting at $449, and it won an award at at the 2017 National Hardware Show.
Now RovR is moving from direct-to-consumer to the retail shelves. The move is spurring some changes, including taking manufacturing overseas. It will still offer its original Colorado RollR 85, but to expand into retail, DeFrancia says the company had to move production overseas.
"The Colorado 85 is only sold directly. We don't have a wholesale program for that," he says. "That's because of the made-in-U.S. cost of it and how much we've got going into this cooler with regards to components and everything, we just can't sell it at wholesale. The retail price would be too expensive. I don't think anyone would buy it."
The RollR 60, starts at $399 and had 580 backers on Kickstarter. It and a redesigned Roller 80 are launching in retailers and online including REI, Cabela's Sportsmans' Warehouse, Backcountry.com, and Pedego Electric Bikes.
It's the first time the company will offer both its Colorado-made cooler and its imported products in retail stores. "We know that it will sell well but we can't give any comparison as to how the RollR 80 will compete with the Colorado 85," DeFrancia says. "I'm really interested to find out."
RovR is a byproduct of DeFrancia's lifestyle. "One of my favorite things is gathering outdoors with friends and family. I have four kids and I'm the guy schlepping from the car to the campsite at Horsetooth or at Boulder Reservoir," says DeFrancia. "It's like a gypsy caravan every time my family goes camping. It was like one of the those moments, when I was like, 'Why are all these wheeled coolers so stinky? Someone needs to build a cooler that can go across tough terrain and not fall apart.' It started there. I've always been an inventor. I became obsessed about it and, every time I went out, I'd just think of new ways I could create a cooler that could do a better job supporting me and my lifestyle."
Other premium coolers, like those offered by Yeti, Pelican, and now OtterBox, don't offer features that RollR does, like inflatable tires -- not plastic wheels -- and the ability to add a bike hitch. "Everything you've seen on our cooler is really unique to us," DeFrancia contends. "It didn't come from copying something that somebody else was doing. It came from creating something nobody else is doing. I can say that with 1,000 percent certainty and confidence."
It's no surprise that the company has filed for a number of patents for its coolers. "We've got notices of allowances on our two first design patents and our other patents are pending," says DeFrancia. "We're going through the process and it's looking really good for us."
He next plans to expand the company's product line, starting with a lantern. "They're all according to the RovR lifestyle," DeFrancia says. "They're all products that are innovative in a way to make it easier for folks, either in setting their stuff up or in getting to a place, to keep it organized while you're there, and also just add to the fun factor by making life easier."
Challenges: "Pitfalls related to being a growing company: manufacturing costs, international relations, the local economy," says DeFrancia. "Making new products and making sure we manage the products we have in a good way. It's really competitive. There are so many economic forces at play that are affecting brick-and-mortar retailers and online. It's a good challenge. I wouldn't be doing this if I wasn't up to the challenge."
He adds, "We're in a funky period right now because we're launching our new products and our website, and we've got our hands full fulfilling Kickstarter orders and going into retailers."
Opportunities: "The outdoor economy is really big,' says DeFrancia. "$120 billion a year is spent on camping equipment. It's an enormous opportunity as far as the market is concerned. Colorado is everything about the RovR lifestyle. There's a lot people here who have built out their brands that are involved in the industry so you have a lot of resources and a lot of people willing to help."
Needs: "Money, time, and people," DeFrancia says. "Cash flow can get tricky, particularly with a startup. . . . We're bootstrapping it and trying to manage that cash. We can't afford to bring on a lot experienced personnel -- everybody here has to do everything."