This week, PUNCHlist sat down with inventor, entrepreneur, and great outdoors-lover Ron Laikind. Ron is the founder of ExtremeMist, maker of best-in-class products for keeping cool and empowering a more enjoyable and efficient outdoor experience. Ron’s innovative personal cooling systems were born from his own passion for hiking which has taken him across the globe. As the post-pandemic world begins to open up, Ron explains why now is the perfect moment for outdoor living companies.
Describe your home in one sentence.
A desert oasis, 2 miles from the closest pavement. My hacienda-style home integrates well with the Sonoran desert environment and affords me all the hiking and trail riding desired!
What drew you to Outdoor Living?
I have always been an outdoorsman. I started gold mining at the tender age of 12. This required hiking and living in the wilderness for weeks at a time. After gaining an appreciation for outdoor life I began worldwide adventure travel. That led me down the business path that has become my journey.
Why is your brand right for the moment?
Staying cool in the summer months while engaging in outdoor activities has never been more important to a wide swathe of the population, partly due to the pandemic. Being able to be outdoors regardless of hot temperatures is incredibly liberating.
What brought you to this company?
Necessity truly is the mother of invention! I created this cooling product for myself. I merely wanted to be able to hike the Arizona mountains any time of the day, without being limited to early mornings. Once I started using my prototype, people took notice. They asked me how they could buy one. That's when I started ExtremeMist.
If you weren’t working in this industry, what would you be doing?
Definitely something related to the outdoors. I was an early adopter of paintball. I got into the industry and still have one location left. So, I can always fall back on that. Some kids never grow up!
Where do you think your growth will be next year?
We are still a new brand, and there is nowhere to go but up. We are always adding more "cool products" to our lineup, increasing across many verticals. With this diversification, we hope to expand our distribution with online and brick and mortar stores.
What’s the most important thing you’re working on and how are you making it happen?
Brand awareness is by far our biggest challenge. Creating a new category is difficult and it’s expensive to get the message out. We are increasing our ad spend and leveraging influencers to help share the product with wider markets.
Nelson Mandela said: “Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.” How can education reshape your sector?
The Internet is vital to our survival. No one is going to search “misting & drinking backpacks”. We have to piggyback onto already established categories such as hydration packs. Our goal is to place more selective educational ads and fewer product sales ads. In addition, we are in the process of adding live demos via our website for an immersive online shopping experience.
What qualities does a leader need to succeed?
A leader must lead by example. In short, don't be afraid to clean a toilet. Being the head of the team means you are part of the team.
What gets you out of bed in the morning?
Every day should be a new challenge. The day-to-day operations can be draining. Constant creation keeps me revved up!
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
My first patent. To create something from thought to napkin doodle to actual product is really gratifying.
What unique aspect of your design and manufacturing process would you want your customers to know about?
Everything - to be able to press a button on a wireless remote and change the surrounding temperature while drinking from the same lightweight pack is amazing.
Who was the first retailer to carry your line?
What is your favorite product versus your best seller?
Our Portable Mist System Quad Kit is a go-anywhere mist system that can be put on golf carts, umbrellas, EZ-Ups, Patios, or wherever you need cooling but don't have access to a/c or a water spigot. This is currently our top-selling item. But the misting backpack is my true passion.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
Nothing. I'm right where I need to be at this time of my life.
What advice would you give to someone looking to launch their own brand in outdoor living?
Follow your passion. Making money is important, but if you can incorporate something you have a passion for and the market isn't so crowded or so developed that there is little room for improvement, then carefully delve in. Make sure to also do your due diligence first.
What is something you know now that you wish you knew when founding your company?
I wish I’d had more marketing knowledge. It is imperative to have strong online acumen. Also, hiring skills. You can't do it all yourself.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
“So amazing” and “awesome”.
Desert island product you can’t live without?
That's a no-brainer, my misting system!
What is one subconscious assumption you’ve made about the new year? What’s the backup plan if you are wrong?
More people will be enjoying the great outdoors. I won't be wrong.
What talent do you wish you possessed?
The ability to play a musical instrument.
What will you prioritize this year to make room for what matters?
More trekking experiences coupled with our needed photoshoots.
What’s your motto?
Stay cool, go farther and stronger.
What’s the one thing you do better than anyone?
That's a tough question. If I apply it to my company, then it’s product development. If it’s personal, there is always someone who can do things better than myself, of course.
What trend should we be paying attention to?
Keep an eye on outdoor trends as the pandemic wanes. Try to identify new or growing activities as society opens back up.
Why do people love your product or service?
Staying cool when it's hot out and being able to extend your activities throughout the entire summer is very empowering.
What was your first NHS experience like?
My first NHS was as an attendee. I was just checking it out as one of my customers had a booth in the outdoor Tailgate & BBQ area. I didn't realize the show went that far beyond nuts and bolts. I signed up as a vendor for the next show, and now I have 3 under my belt.
How do you manage growth versus sustainability?
We’re still in the early stages. We joined the Outdoor Industry Association, and as we ramp up we’re looking forward to following their guidance on sustainability, a big part of their platform.
Hard-learned home improvement tip?
Hire a Pro on jobs you are not well-versed in. I continually learn the lesson that I never learn!
Biggest pandemic lesson?
In business be ready to pivot. Back in March 2020, I found out that all disinfectant sprayer devices were instantly sold out. So, I converted my misting backpack into a disinfecting system. I donated them to some of the covid wards. Then cleaning companies caught wind of it and started asking to order thousands of them. It certainly was not my passion to be in the disinfectant business but the well-being of others was now at stake. My misting products had to take a back seat until the inventories of the sanitizing companies were built back up.
What are 3-5 values driving your company?
1. Help people stay active year-round
2. Help people enjoy the awesome outdoors
3. Provide top-notch service to our friends and fans
What keeps you up at night?
Dreaming up new and ancillary products.