Ashe and Buchanan launched Chillistick in a bid to explore different commercial applications for dry ice – the solid form of carbon dioxide.
When the ice is added to warm water, it creates a fog effect sometimes used at weddings, parties, discos and other special events.
The enterprising duo, who are both good friends, explored the range of dry ice uses, from science experiments in schools to corporate events and even special occasions in the home.
Within four years, they had transformed Old Basing-based Chillistick into one of the largest dry ice suppliers in the country.
They then changed the focus of the business from manufacture and supply to innovation, designing a range of patented drinks accessories that could create eye-catching dry ice special effects.
Exciting partnerships with major spirits brands were formed and the duo started supplying hospitality firms nationwide, including a particular well-known experimentalist chef. Design and development accelerated rapidly and Chillistick became well-known across several key markets.
The pair wanted to deal with a major limitation of dry ice which has a short shelf-life of typically 2-3 days. This means that a venue must use all of the dry ice up in this short window so it would be very convenient to have a fog effect which can be stored for much longer.
Many hours and many chocolate biscuits were consumed in experimenting with different types of container. To fund research and development activities Mike and Chris secured a loan from FSE Finance South East and now they’ve hit on a product which they believe could provide a solution.
The result is the FogJug, which provides a fog jet from a shared drinking vessel that can be used with many types of drink, from beer and cocktails to ciders and soft drinks, delivering fog drama on demand with a shelf life of several years.
Finance South East introduced Mike and Chris to Mike O’Dwyer, an Enterprise M3 growth champion who has helped them review and refine their business processes and identify potential markets for their product.
Chris said: “Mike’s help has been invaluable as we’ve moved towards a position where we can take the FogJug to production. He has challenged us to think about how we would commercialise the product.
“Our focus has predominantly been on research and development, on how to fine-tune the product to maximise the shelf-life of the fog effect, but Mike has taught us that we need to be thinking ahead to the next stage now.”
Mike O’Dwyer will continue to work with Chillistick to guide the company through the transition from product manufacture to commercialisation. He has also put Chris and Mike in touch with a technical advisor from Growth Hub partner SETsquared, which supports business incubation through a collaboration between Bath, Bristol, Exeter, Southampton and Surrey universities.
Chris said: “One of the best advantages of working with the Growth Hub is that the Champions can signpost you to an extensive number of people with a range of different specialisms. We’d definitely recommend them to other science and tech-based companies seeking to grow their business.”
Chillistick is set to officially launch the FogJug at Europe’s biggest on-trade exhibition Imbibe.