Founder and CEO of Ballast Brian Kirk it didn’t set out to be an entrepreneur – it all fell into his lap. One day as he lay on the beach with his head resting on a balled up towel, he realized it was the perfect day, except he wanted to be more comfortable while he was soaking up the sun.
“I sat down, pulled out my phone, and started looking for beach pillows, figuring I’d find a variety of gorgeous beach pillows to choose from. Instead, I came to the shocking conclusion that beach pillows didn’t exist: I could not find a single one,” the businessman exclusively recounts Morning honey. “I knew it was something I had to change.”
At that moment, Kirk knew he wanted to start Ballast. “Even though I’ve never invented a product before, I thrive on creativity and innovation. Using my imagination to solve problems is my purpose in life. I haven’t thought about it start a company when the inspiration first arose, but I knew that I would do everything in my power to create the most comfortable beach pillow possible and that I would strive to share it with the world. That was the beginning of Ballast,” he recalls.
“The name Ballast has two meanings: one, it’s a compartment that helps weigh down something (like your beach pillow on a windy day) and two, it’s something in life that makes you feel grounded, centered, and content ( like looking out at the vast ocean from the comfort of a sandy beach).”
“There are other inflatable cushions made for outdoor use, especially when camping. The problem is that beaches are windy and inflatable cushions are extremely light. If you take one to the beach on a windy day, it will fly off and chase the your pillow along the beach is no fun,” explains why it was missing from the market. “We designed the Ballast cushion with an attached bag that you can fill with a pellet of sand, or something small, to weigh it down. When you’re done using it, the pillow folds flat into the case, making for a super compact case for easy transport. The pillow also has an inner cover that you can pop a cooling gel pack into to cool you down on a hot, sunny day – that might be my favorite part.”
Kirk was concerned that the pillow wouldn’t resonate with the others, which is why he decided to go on a test run before throwing it.
“While I was excited to create something new that I believed in people would enjoy it, you never really know how people will react to the final product. To validate the product, I took the prototypes to a surf industry trade show to see how shoppers would react,” she says.
“Showing up for that first day at the show was extremely nerve-wracking. These are industry veterans who have seen virtually every beach-related product in existence and we were surrounded by the most recognizable surf brands in the world. I was afraid I was going to be mocked by the building But the opposite happened. These industry insiders were as shocked as I was to realize beach pillows didn’t really exist and loved the idea and execution. Their enthusiasm for the product gave me the confidence to move on to the next stage,” he adds.
Sure, building a business has its ups and downs, but he knows that’s about it it’s worth it in the endespecially when it interacts with the people who buy its product.
“This journey has been filled with so many seemingly insurmountable challenges that it’s hard to pick just one. Starting your first business during a global pandemic is no easy task. However, overcoming challenges is what provides the most satisfaction. I have some ‘ a mantra I use when challenges arise, ‘It’s all learning.’ This line helps me remember that setbacks are an avoidable part of the process, not excuses to quit. Every new experience, good and bad, is simply an opportunity to learn and improve,” she shares. “While learning how to take a product from imagination to market has been amazing, the best part is hearing from happy customers who love using their Ballast Beach Pillow.”
“I learned about product design, prototyping, manufacturing, packaging, supply chains, sales channels, retail merchandising, financial reporting, and the list goes on. Most of these topics would bore me to sleep in class, but I have found learning on them fascinating through first-hand experience,” he notes.
Moving on, Kirk says he’s in the “process of expanding our product line, mostly because I’ve been inspired by customers who have sent us ideas for products they’d like us to make.”
“Separate from the creation of new products, we would like to transform Ballast into a company capable of making a positive contribution to our world, both through stewardship of the environment that benefits our planet, and through creative endeavors that enhance culture,” shares.
Kirk’s important advice for others wanting to start a business is simple: “Make sure you’ve done it an extraordinary passion for whatever business you are looking to create. And know that, like any lasting relationship, the intense passion you felt at the beginning will fade. I feel this is where a lot of people either abandon their commitment or get sidetracked by the shiny new item that ignites that spark of passion they had initially felt. Stay the course,” he says. “Find ways to see that same spark of passion in the eyes of others who are being exposed to your business idea for the first time. Honor the great idea the universe gave you by bringing it to fruition.”
Also, one of the best parts is sharing his success with his family.
“I have identical 12 year old twins and it has been great to see how enthusiastic they are about Ballast. They have traveled with me on sales trips, helped work the booths at trade shows and set up product showcases in the new store account. It’s fantastic being able to bring them closer to the company at this young age and hope it inspires them to use their creativity productively,” she says.