When Jim Doan came to St. Joseph in 2007 to work for Whirlpool, he moved into a new housing development with only about 25 percent of the homes built — which meant he observed a lot of construction sites.
Rugged coffee making
He regularly noticed coffee makers struggling to withstand the wear and tear of the construction environment.
“Any time I’d go to a construction site, I’d always see a coffee maker around, and they are always really beat up and junky looking,” he said.
Doan realized the home appliance industry was failing to meet the needs of not just construction workers, but several outdoor-oriented coffee lovers, including campers and RV users, boaters, hunters and fishers, tailgaters and others.
In 2012, Doan launched the company OXX and began working to develop a coffee maker to withstand job sites and outdoor recreation environments. The product, The COFFEEBOXX, has been in development for three years and is now ready to hit store shelves.
The “ruggedized” coffee maker is designed “with the construction worker in mind,” Doan said.
He added that If the product works for a construction worker, it will work for other rugged outdoor applications.
“It’s the toughest coffee maker in the industry, and we’re excited to see all of the places our consumers will take it,” he said.
Doan has launched a $50,000 Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign to raise the funds needed for the initial manufacturing batch.
“We’d like to target sales of 1,000 units to begin with as a first batch,” he said. “That would get us started.”
The Kickstarter campaign ends on Dec. 29, and so far, it has garnered about 75 percent of its goal.
Doan hopes to be able to begin distribution to big-box retailers in March.
Doan said an important part of launching the Kickstarter campaign is branding and building product awareness.
“We are using Kickstarter to reach out to a unique set of consumers who help build brands and are really excited about your product, to really directly connect with them,” he explained. “Those are the people who are fantastic. They get behind your brand and talk about you, and those are the types of people you want to engage with. And you can do that through Kickstarter.
“Coffee is really interesting, because it’s such a huge industry,” Doan said. “It crosses all cultures and countries — coffee is everywhere. There is no one in the space doing what we are doing.”
The COFFEEBOXX is engineered with a crush-proof body and impact-resistant materials and is the first coffee brewer certified to be dust and waterproof. It has been field tested in extreme conditions and passed all areas of durability and resistance.
The COFFEEBOXX is compatible with all K-cup style pods. It features a spill proof 2.5 L water tank, which is said to be the largest in the industry. It is also portable, weighing 11 pounds, with a rubberized handle, a retractable cord and on-the-go K-cup brewing capabilities.
Grand Rapids base
Doan began operating OXX out of Grand Rapids about six months ago and relocated to the city himself two months ago. He said proximity to venture capital and a talented workforce drove his decision to locate his business in Grand Rapids.
“When I first started this business, I went out looking for venture capital, and we found support in cities, some in Chicago, but primarily out of the Grand Rapids area,” he said. “When we raised enough money that I could actually open an office, I thought about our options and being close to our investors was really important, so we could have a really good working relationship and be in direct contact.
“The other part of it, it is really hard to pull talent into a small town. St. Joe, if it wasn’t for Whirlpool there, wouldn’t be much there. Really, all the talent I wanted to bring on to help build the company was going to be in a bigger market, which was Grand Rapids.”
OXX employs seven people.
Doan said his vision for the company is to continue to design innovative and creative home appliance products.
“We hope to follow-up with some other cool coffee products,” he said.