An interview with the brains behind a collection of amazingly simple and well-designed BBQ gear as the growth in outside cooking grows.
When did you become interested in design?
Years in the corporate world and then running different enterprises teaches you to focus on the things that need to happen and move things forward. No committees or overengineered processes. Traction and opportunity are what matter, so designing is the core of any modern businesses. Possibility it could be an application of a marketing skill or reward from making something from the seed of an idea. We like design but also realise that design is the process of making a difference in the world or easing our customer’s lives. Creating joy is also a reward of design.
What was your first product hit?
We are in the early stages of our route to market, so we have been mostly impressed with how we have been able to get independent retailers to stock us and develop a full digital e-commerce site on bisonhill.uk. Product businesses thesedays cant really get traction with one product. It needs a range of 5-10 we have found and so we have focused on functional issues in a growing niche market where the only real alternatives are branded goods that have no design thought going into them or cottage industry makers. We aim to growth to a medium-sized operator with crafting prowess and affordable quality.
Many of our products try to solve common functional problems when cooking on live fire. Whether it is a practical problem or a new innovation that makes something simpler. Many of our designs embrace multi-functionality – from the masses of pockets in the Gaucho Apron to combined grill scraper and bottle opener of the BBQ Blade.
Once you have an idea, what is the design/product development process like?
We like to take a similar product design journey, but each project can be different, from the idea generation to the design manufacture. For the Gaucho Apron we decided to get onto a plane and visit the 4th largest garment manufacturer in the world, Vietnam. In Vietnam, we found a fantastic small maker and worked with their designer and owner to create the BBQ Apron. We paid for the design time at international salary levels and purchased the copyright. The denim and manufacturing is all done locally through a supply chain we saw and walked. Having an interactive process over a few days allowed us to move from sketches to a final product. We then put our first bulk order in Sept 2022 and returned home. For our first tool, the BBQ Blade, we used an engineering student to create the CAD design. We manufactured a sample with a supplier we identified in China and then made a bulk order. We have since moved CAD design inhouse for our next two tools but did get into museums to research the attractions of medieval arrows to get inspiration on creating teeth that can fork and hold food securely. The King Fork and Bison Skewer are coming to market in Oct 2023. Our design process goes through a lot of prototyping and testing. It is important to get something in your hands, use it and feedback on the design.
Based on your products, it seems you spend a lot of time in grilling – do you like to cook?
We see cooking as more a primaeval activity for us; so complex dishes in a kitchen are less interesting. Cooking on live fire and creating fantastic dishes from the variety of techniques you can learn is rewarding. Primitively cooking on heat, smoke and fire with some functional gear to make it easier has grown the thirst for cooking. We now consider ourselves raw gastro grillers!
What advice would you give up-and-coming designers and inventors?
Just get going and try. The costs to getting going can be minimal. Some capital can assist but the perspiration is what matters. We’ve gone slower than we hoped but we have learned and sharpened our approach. Its fantastic to be involved in packaging to speaking at cooking festivals from our stall.