I had the pleasure of interviewing Ron Laikind. Ron Laikind is the inventor of ExtremeMist Personal Cooling System (PCS) and ExtremeMist Portable Sanitizing System (PSS). He has hiked the globe from the Sahara to the Gobi Desert in Mongolia, Siberia, Turkey, the Himalayas, India, Cashmere, Pakistan, Thailand, Asia, Vietnam, Cambodia, South America, Patagonia, Argentina, Chile, Mexico, Yosemite and more. The author of “Drifting Through the Sands of Time: A Saharan Adventure,” has trekked tens of thousands of miles.
Thank you for joining us Ron. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Asa result of my long-time love for hiking and trekking, I have become an inventor and entrepreneur. I go out in very extreme conditions whether it is freezing cold at high altitudes or burning hot at low deserts. Between living in the hot desert in Arizona and hiking in hot, dry environments across the globe including the Sahara Desert, I won’t stifle my activities even though it may be 112 degrees. You’ll find me still climbing the desert mountains. It is that love for the great outdoors that drove me to invent the ExtremeMist Personal Cooling System (PCS).
Can you tell a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey.
The hardest part of starting ExtremeMist was taking the first step from a thought to a drawing on a napkin, to deliberately attempting to create a product from scratch. Once I made the decision to finally follow through — — then, the games really began. If you look at the whole process as a game — it takes some of the stress out of the process. Try to make it as fun as possible and you can go further with your idea. It worked for me that way — — and still does.
Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
The drive was easy, especially once I figured out what motivates me and turning it into a bit of a game. In fact, that part was actually the more enjoyable part of inventing a product and making it a reality. Once I had the idea for ExtremeMist, the most important steps were finding the right team to surround myself with. Even though I was hiring externally, I had to find the right engineer firm. I had to find the right the patent attorney. Then, I had to find the right factories and decide which parts of the ExtremeMist system had to be made and which parts could be purchased off the shelf. Then, I put the whole thing together and I had a product. At that point, the hard work really starts which is promoting and selling your product.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? What lesson did you learned from that?
There is nothing funny about mistakes. Mistakes can be very costly. In the design process, leaving out an important element of the whole design can make you actually have to start the process all over again which happened to me more than once. I learned to test, test and do more testing to make sure the process worked.
If you could go back in time and talk to your younger self regarding life lessons, things you would like him to know what would they be and why?
Start earlier! Take your ideas and follow through with them. Don’t put ideas in a notebook and put the notebook in a drawer. Take that first step — — maybe the hardest step of the process.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
On the drinking/misting side, which is what we started with for ExtremeMist Personal Cooling System, the product truly stands out because there is no other system like ours. We are the first to market. There is no competition.
However, we switched gears and repurposed our misting/drinking system to ExtremeMist Portable Sanitizing System when COVID-19 entered weeks ago, my gym was going to close before the shutdown order due to the fact that the clients were not secure in the knowledge that the gym was being properly sanitized. The gym happens to be adjacent to the ExtremeMist PCS office.
When I learned that the gym was having a meeting to close its doors due to Covid-19 concerns, I asked them to wait because of an idea I had. I walked back to my office realizing that the high-pressure system for misting can certainly delivery other solutions. I quickly did a retrofit of ExtremeMist and returned to the gym with a functioning system for disinfecting. Since it is in a hiking/running backpack, ExtremeMist Portable Sanitizing System is the most comfortable backpack spraying system in the world. Establishments can keep it on their employees all day long without major fatigue. Not only can they frequently spray/disinfect, the piece of mind seeing someone sanitizing equipment and common areas in the gym was priceless.
Now, if I walk into a restaurant and do not see someone with a squirt bottle disinfecting or another product sanitizing, I walk right out and go to an establishment that is disinfecting frequently. For these reasons and in addition to having an affordable product, this makes our Portable Sanitizing System truly stand out.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Number one — making money makes a big difference. If you are constantly losing money, which does happen at the beginning, it can drag on you. You must try to pay yourself to have some sort of reward as soon as finances can support it depending on the type of business you are in. Another self-reward can be if you are in a business that is helping others, there is an intrinsic reward that money cannot buy.
The other thing is to enjoy whatever business you are doing. I’m not the first to say this. It’s very well known. The hiking is my love and my hobby and my lifestyle. It’s impossible to burn out when you love what you are doing.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Who and why?
There are several important people who have helped me on my journey to start ExtremeMist. My close family and friends have been incredibly supportive with my ideas, and even offer free labor when needed. In fact, family and friends are the greatest support system you can ever ask for. My investor came along one year into the process and talked me out of licensing ExtremeMist to an outside big company by financially supporting the project past my initial investments. Even though he lives across the country, he stays very involved with me. Now, I have someone to bounce ideas, problems and share the wins with someone who actually has “skin in the game”.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
When it comes to goodness, it depends on how you are looking at yourself. With the misting/drinking system, I personally have helped people that were in different stages of heat stroke/heat exhaustion by cooling them down until paramedics to get into the mountain trails for rescue. It’s truly gratifying. Now, that others using my system, they are bound to be able to help others as I have.
Since having added the ExtremeMist Portable Sanitizing System, I believe that it is helping everybody by having an inexpensive disinfecting system that can do what other $700+ systems do. More people can afford it for their smaller businesses while large companies are benefitting from the product as well. Making an affordable sanitizing system and getting it into the hands of even the smallest businesses in an affordable way and actually helping to stop the spread of viruses is gratifying beyond my wildest expectations.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started my company” and why?
1. Pay Yourself First. My mother was a fabulous business woman. She told me to pay myself first. But unfortunately, I have not done that yet.
2. Keep yourself cool when trekking in the desert. My “A-ha” moment came when I was deep in the Sahara. It was 140 degrees coming off the sands. I’d have to sit under my blanket (doubled as saddle/sleeping bag) using it as a lean-to during the hottest hours. My cameleer taught me a 1000 year-old trick. Put a bowl in the sand. Tilt it towards the breeze in direct sunlight with water in the bowl. As some of the water evaporates, 10–15 minutes later, I had ice cold water left in the bowl and I will never forget that first sip. Being from Arizona where we have mist systems in our shopping centers, public buildings and our homes, it made me realize that if I had a mist system on this trek, hundreds and hundreds of miles in the Sahara Desert my life would be so much better. Again my “A-ha” moment was to put a mist system in a backpack — sharing the reservoir with the drinking system. It took a few years before I pulled that out my book of ideas and took that first step.
3. Failure is not an option. It took a few tries to get ExtremeMist just right. I am glad that I never let failure enter my vocabulary.
4. Keeping up with enjoying life. For some time, I was working a lot, and not taking the time to enjoy what was impetuous to starting my company — hiking. Now, I am sure to take the time to enjoy hiking/trekking, even if there is work to get done.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
Through my worldwide adventure travels, I have been through hot spots throughout the world (both temperature-wise and political) and have come to realize for the most part that people are good. Meeting people from all walks of life is one of the better things that you can do. People are people. Don’t be naïve to inherent dangers but wisely visit different neighborhoods, travel the United States and experience the world. It will open your eyes to others and the kindness that surrounds us.