Ideas hatched during high school can range from terrible — like writing a book report the night before it’s due or self-cut bangs — to ingenious.
Spencer Sutlive and Henry Collins, two college students, hope their company and new product will be the latter.
“It all started senior year in high school,” said Collins, a junior finance and entrepreneurship double major at Elon University. “That’s when we kind of came up with the idea for the cooler and the Kickstarter.”
Collins and Sutlive, two friends who attended the Wesleyan School in Norcross, co-founded Rugged Road Outdoors while still in school in October 2016. The company stemmed from the duo’s desire to create a new kind of cooler.
“It was kind of one of those things — when we started developing the cooler we knew pretty much exactly what we wanted to do,” said Sutlive, a junior intended finance major at the University of Georgia.
The cooler is inspired in part by similar Yeti products, the cost of which Collins said “threw him off.”
The Venture cooler, Rugged Road Outdoors’ version, will retail for $139 once available on the market, but Kickstarter backers will be able to purchase the cooler with a $99 pledge.
The Venture cooler weighs less than 10 pounds and can retain ice for up to eight days. Sutlive said the cooler is also highly durable.
Creating a product with these specifications was a process.
“We did a bunch of research on how we could develop the cooler and worked on that all freshman year, and eventually we just ran out of money,” Collins said.
After finding out that the company the two had partnered with originally was going out of business, Collins and Sutlive found another based in North Dakota that would back Rugged Road Outdoors.
“We bounced right back,” Sutlive said. “We started getting into the nitty gritty — figuring out logistics, figuring out how we were going to package it, how we were going to ship it, how we were going to fulfill it … everything down to the last cent.”
This summer, the two college students traveled around Georgia pitching their product to smaller outdoor stores. If all goes according to plan and the Kickstarter for the Venture cooler is fully funded, there will be an excess of 1,000 coolers to distribute to these stores.
The Kickstarter campaign launched on Sept. 24. According to a press release, the Kickstarter raised over 25 percent of its $85,000 goal within the first day of launching.
The online fundraising campaign lasts until Nov. 24. Through the past few years, Sutlive and Collins said their family and friends have been encouraging.
“I haven’t found many people along the way who haven’t been supportive,” Collins said. “As far as the business mentor side goes, we’ve had people that question us with the right kind of questions to make sure we don’t have a false sense of confidence, and [they] make us check ourselves before we make decisions.”
Sutlive said he and Collins have worked incredibly hard to get Rugged Road Outdoors and the Venture cooler up and running and that supportive family and friends who recognize this make all the difference.
“They’ve really seen how hard we’ve worked on this. [We’ve put] probably 1,000 hours into this project,” Sutlive said. “A common consensus was people I know are just really happy to see us finally at the end of this journey after working for years now to develop a new product.”