What: Grey Street Design LLC
What it does: Produces Fireside Audiobox and develops other consumer products
Pictured: Tyrone Hazen, founder and designer of Grey Street
Bend product designer Tyrone Hazen created his first mass-production item, Fireside Audiobox, as a self-imposed homework assignment.
He’d joined a maker space in his previous home, San Diego, and wanted a project that would force him to learn all the tools that were available in the shop. As a former physics major, he thought a good challenge would be to fabricate a desktop-size Ruben’s tube, which is used to demonstrate sound waves.
A Ruben’s tube is a perforated metal pipe filled with fuel gas. When the fuel source is lit above the tube, and sound enters one end, the sound waves can be seen in the movement of the flames. With Fireside Audiobox, Hazen has hidden the fuel source, a camp-size propane tank, and battery power, beneath a sleek bamboo box. The flames dance between two glass panes.
Hazen kept working on the project after moving to Bend. When people started asking about the price tag on his little box of dancing flames, he decided to try to get it into production. Working until recently as a real estate broker, Hazen said he envisioned the product as a luxury item, perhaps something Realtors would give their home-buying clients as a thank-you gift.
One Kickstarter campaign, many pitches to investors and a trip to China later, Fireside Audiobox is ready for mass production, Hazen said. One retailer, the name of which Hazen can’t disclose, has expressed an interest in buying 10,000 units, he said, and he’ll display Fireside Audiobox at several trade shows and expos in January. Meanwhile, a Chinese factory has cranked out a few prototypes, and Hazen said he expects his first shipment in April.
“I could do this as a small lifestyle business out of my garage,” Hazen said, but, “I don’t want to be spending my time building these items over and over and over.”
Hazen created Fireside Audiobox under his longstanding side business, Grey Street Design LLC, but he recently decided to put aside real estate to focus on his flagship product. “This will require all of my focus,” he said.
Hazen conceived of Fireside Audiobox while living in San Diego, but he did most of the work after moving to Bend two years ago. Having used all the maker spaces in town, including E::Space Labs and DIY Cave, as well as some private shops, he said, “It’s a community project.”
Last summer he ran a Kickstarter campaign, which features a video of the Fireside Audiobox, that raised $38,127 in 30 days. Because of publicity around that campaign, Hazen said, a national retailer contacted him about producing 10,000 units next year. Hazen decided to figure out how to make that happen.
Once again, he drew on a network of Bend designers and business people and connected with an American-owned agent in China, Weiguo Solutions.
“They introduced me to a factory,” Hazen said. “Now I’m waiting on figuring out what the prices are actually going to be on these units.”
Hazen said it might not be profitable for him to ink a deal for the 10,000 units, but in any case, he said he’s done the work to prepare for mass production. At the least, he’ll have 200 units shipped in April to fulfill orders from the Kickstarter campaign and facilitate future sales.
He’ll spend most of January at trade shows, starting with Eureka Park Marketplace, the startup showcase at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
“We’ll see if retailers want this,” Hazen said. “If I can sell 1,000 units over the year, that’s beyond my break-even. That would be really positive for me.”
— Reporter: 541-617-7860,
Q: Do you have other products in development. Are they anything like Fireside Audiobox?
A: They have a common thread in that they take some fundamental scientific principle and leverage it in a way that’s surprising to people.
Q: What advice do you have for a successful Kickstarter campaign?
A: There is still a misconception that if you just put up a campaign page, backers will find you. This is a detrimental mistake. With so much competing for peoples’ attention these days, you have to make sure to get the message to them. Researching bloggers that cover your industry (and) finding local support is a must.