It would be interesting to know how many of the hundreds of manufacturers showing off their often complex wares at the Outdoor Retailer Winter Market at the Salt Palace this week began with a simple idea.
South Jordan brothers Tanner and Spencer Harrison are doing just that. The 16- and 14-year-olds are manufacturing a campfire baking stick called a Wolf ’em Stick in a shed behind their home.
Their creation using a wooden handle and top connected to a metal rod can be used by campers who wrap a piece of bread dough around the wooden top. Using rotating handles, the dough with a hollow middle is baked over a campfire and then filled with meat or fruit.
“My favorite is taco meat, lettuce and cheese,” said Tanner moments before touring the Outdoor Retailer floor with Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams. “You can also put in desserts. The base dough takes all the direct heat from the fire if you cover the wood all the way.”
The brothers first used the product with their cousins when camping in Ohio. They came up with the company name because campers who eat the doughy creations “wolf ’em” down because they taste so good.
It takes them from five to eight minutes to put together a Wolf ’em Stick. They are currently selling them online at their website www.wolfem.com and at Motor Sportsland and Not Just Copies. The website contains pictures of how the product works and recipes.
The brothers took classes after school — Tanner is a junior at Bingham High and Spencer is an eighth grader at American Prepatory Academy — at Broadview University as part of the Young Entrepreneurs Academy.
McAdams and Tara McKee, outdoor recreation coordinator for the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, took the Harrisons on a quick tour of the Outdoor Retailer floor Thursday and introduced them to company leaders from Black Diamond, GroundZero, Petzl and Salomon, all Utah-based companies.
McAdams said that small startups such as the one the Harrisons have started often don’t have the upfront cash to afford the $5,000 it costs to rent a booth on the Outdoor Retailer floor. So Salt Lake County and the state of Utah are planning on renting a booth for the Summer Market and inviting start-up companies with potential such as Wolf ’em to sell their products.
“The Outdoor Retailer convention is a great opportunity for inventors and entrepreneurs to come and show their product,” said McAdams. “They can find someone who is interested in buying their product and marketing it on a global level … While Outdoor Retailer is where global businesses come to participate, get discovered and market, we can also make it about local businesses.”
McKee said the booth the state and county are planning on sponsoring would likely be located in the tent outside the main Salt Palace, a place with a reputation of drawing companies that are not yet established but have innovative new products.
The Harrison brothers received advice and support from Utah companies on the floor. They exchanged cards and cell phone numbers, were invited to tour plants and offered help for their ideas. One executive suggested they either patent their product or align themselves with a bigger company with the resources to do that.
Joe Atkin, CEO of Bluffdale-based GoalZero, one of the world’s largest portable solar power manufacturers, told the Harrisons about the history of his company, which began in Africa.
“Don’t give up,” Atkin told them. “There will be so many people telling you you can’t do this.”
Ryan Gellert of Black Diamond said that when he was the Harrisons’ age, he was mostly interested in skateboarding.
“We would love to have you guys come through our plant and we will give you a tour,” he said.
Nazz Kurth of Petzl gave the young businessmen advice on where to market their product locally, asked about the price (the Wolf ’em Sticks retail for $9.99) and inquired about their web presence.
Tanner said the brothers are already trying to add value to their product. They are trying to invent a detachable top to the metal stick so it could be used to roast marshmallows and hot dogs over a fire as well as a bag where customers can store the sticks.
The Outdoor Retailer Winter Market, a closed-to-the-public trade show, concludes Saturday. It has drawn about 22,000 people.