Breaking a Kickstarter Record Was Just the Beginning

One inventor is delivering a “party in a box” to 60,000 people.
The Coolest Cooler (Photo: Courtesy Coolest)
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Feb 4, 2016· 2 MIN READ
Bekah Wright is a Los Angeles–based journalist who specializes in travel, entertainment, and lifestyle.

Ryan Grepper is a self-proclaimed tinkerer. When a friend gave Grepper—a high-rise city dweller without a lawn—a weed whacker, he repurposed it into a blender. His friends were endlessly entertained by the unveiling of his gizmos, so the Portland, Oregon–based resident thought: Why not introduce his products to the masses? His first product was an ambitious undertaking, combining several of his inventions to create the Coolest Cooler. A “party in a box,” the Coolest Cooler not only keeps beverages cold but also seamlessly integrates a blender, a speaker, and a USB charger. Little did Grepper know that what started as an invention to fuel his passion for spending time outdoors with family and friends would go on to make crowdfunding history.

To finance his device, Grepper crowdfunded his project on Kickstarter. His first attempt received lukewarm interest, and he didn’t meet his fund-raising goal. “Looking back, there were a number of factors that caused that campaign to fail,” Grepper says. “Not the least of them was launching in the winter.” Ineffective outreach and not taking the product’s design far enough before launch were also at fault.

Undaunted, “we went back to the drawing board, moved the product further along, and improved the design,” he recalls. Determined to achieve a successful outcome, Grepper launched a second campaign during the summer with the goal of reaching $50,000 in funding.

On the first day something fascinating happened. “The backers were piling in, and the dollars kept rising up,” Grepper says. “Within the second day, we broke past our goal.” By day four, the Coolest Cooler had earned millions of dollars in support. By the time the second campaign concluded, the product had broken Kickstarter’s funding record, with a total of $13 million and 60,000 backers. Grepper says, “The second campaign succeeded for several reasons—we had a better prototype, a better video, and we launched in July.”

Gaining 60,000 customers in such a short time comes with its challenges. “The Coolest Cooler went from a product to a business overnight,” Director of Operations Marguerite Svendsen says. “We had to scale up immensely in the first three months—sourcing, logistics, staffing partners, website marketing support—everything from the ground up.”

The logistics involved were staggering. Assembly for one cooler occurs in eight places, involves 23 factories, and requires myriad parts, all held together by 151 screws. Not to mention Coolest needed a database that could manage 60,000-plus orders. For all his Kickstarter backers, Grepper felt a responsibility to get the product out the door quickly: “That’s the most sincere form of gratitude I can show.”

Ryan Grepper, Founder & CEO
(Photo: Courtesy Coolest)

So how is Coolest working to deliver 60,000 coolers into the hands of customers spread across 72 countries? After trying and exploring different options, Coolest chose UPS as its global fulfillment partner. As the second Kickstarter campaign was under way, UPS presented Coolest with a proposal for managing the young company’s fulfillment. “We were able to educate Coolest about the importance of logistics for their long-term success,” Tim Poundstone, a Portland-based manager for UPS, says. The big-picture considerations ran the gamut from dimensions of shipping boxes to how the use of lithium ion batteries would affect Coolest’s supply chain.

One of the largest challenges was the Cooler’s six-cubic-feet size. “For us to ship it from Portland to someone in Florida would be way beyond our budget,” Svendsen says. As it stands, shipping makes up a third of the cost behind Coolest’s business. UPS has consolidated the process by establishing distribution centers targeted for specific delivery areas. The UPS team also dove in to help Coolest with an email notification system, international shipping, and specialized solutions for product returns. To handle all of these complex logistical needs and to help ramp up operations quickly, UPS proved to be the perfect partner.

Last July, the first 15,000 Coolest Coolers made the six-week journey from assembly to delivery at the doorstep of their new owners. As Coolest continues to fulfill its Kickstarter orders, Grepper is making a big push to bring the “portable party” to the mass market in time for summer 2016, including a new partnership with Amazon. This growth, along with the development of new products, will ensure that Coolest is fulfilling its mission of bringing people together to have a great time.