Interview with Sky Huddleston

Winter can be a tough time to deal with. The snow, the cold, and the massive heating bills tend to make anyone miserable. But, what if there was another clean energy solution out there, which could bring down your costs. The answer may lie in rocket heaters, which are approved by NRTL for home use.

While most entrepreneurs would give up on developing a product in just an year or so, there are others, who are ready to go the distance and spend all their savings and more, in their pursuit for a solution which will bring comfort to the masses.

Join us as we ask Sky Huddleston, from Rocketheater.com, a couple of questions about his entrepreneurial journey to making a rocket heater which has been approved by NRTL (Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory) for home use.

  1. So, let us start from the beginning, what was your inspiration behind making this prototype?

A few years ago my father and I considered installing a wood stove to increase our independence from the grid and save some money on our heating bills. As any savvy consumer does, we did our research and found the Rocket Mass Heaters to be ideal. However, we noticed that nobody was making a safety tested version for indoor use. Most of the rocket heaters were homemade thingamajigs for greenhouses and off grid lifestyles.

I have always been interested in renewable energy and we have had background experience in similar projects. We saw the rocket heaters online and recognized an open market opportunity.  My father being a machinist and I being a mechanical draftsman, we decided to go for the long haul, sell our home, cash out our savings and even retirement, and start the business. We definitely risked everything.

  1. Did you have any problem in setting up a supply chain for your business?

Not really, our previous projects and experience had us established with all the resources to get most of the materials we needed.

  1. It is a tough market to get into with many other options available, do you think you will be making further inroads soon?

It is indeed a tough market, its rather flooded with large corporations such as Jotul and US stove combined with backwoods engineers (such as how we started) with everything in between. We’ve found that good old classic innovation to be the best way to get attention. If your products stand out and are truly different from convention, you will be noticed.

  1. Rocket heater has really good fuel efficiency and exceptionally clean heat output, but it seems to lack in user friendliness. Are you working on improving the overall design to make it blend into the environment?

Absolutely. We have other designs in mind, however each new design requires a safety test by NRTL that costs amounts such copious I dare not even utter them. So far now, an affordable base model is all we can offer. If you’re going for a contemporary or art-deco style, our rocket heater fits right in.

As far as user friendliness goes, our heater is extremely easy to clean, maintain, and start.

  1. One load, at the moment, can only go for 1 hour, are you working on automating the loading process?

Yes, the biggest issue we face is a very low run time, about an hour per load to be precise. However, we have other product accessory’s that will all be backwards compatible such as a drop in pellet hopper adapter that will make this stove a truly revolutionary push in solid biofuel heating. It will increase the run time to over 10 hours.

With these accessory’s, I feel that rocket heaters will push conventional wood stoves aside as the next couple decades come to pass. We feel that they are the future of residential and small building heating source.

  1. Social Media is an effective tool in promoting any online business these days. How has your experience been in using it?

YouTube, Facebook, and other internet media platforms have given us mixed results thus far. It generates a lot of interest and people asking questions, and is a great way to get the word out there. But, a disproportionately low amount of people follow through on their initial interest. Yeah, you’ll get sales. But it’s going to be a trickle at first.

All in all, in my experience it’s a free tool to market, and you get what you pay for. Use it and go for it no matter what your industry, but in my experience given my customers demographics, traditional leaning sales and dealing with online retailers has been of equal importance.

  1. You have a good and efficient product, but it has had limited success. Where do you go from here?

We are on the cusp of a new era. We have a lot of other designs in mind for the future that will make us eligible for DoD (Department of Defense) and Military Contracts and so much more. As our company grows we will make different variations, potentially custom options, different shapes, designs, sizes, etc. But thats all way in the future.

  1. Lastly, you have spent a lot of effort and time to build a working prototype and bring it to the market, what would be your advice to fellow entrepreneurs who are facing difficulties to achieve the same?

Okay, before anyone even sets out with their “perfect plan”, take all the time and money you think you’re going to need. Now, double, no, triple it. That is how much time and money you’re actually going to need to get your company off the ground. Did I say triple? Make it quadruple.

Be cheap, because if it’s a lean startup there will come several times you just run out of money. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Be sure to network and meet as many people in the industry or related fields as you can. The more affiliations you have, the better. In many cases, it’s not what you know but who you know.

But, the most important thing is to never give up. Now, I personally am guilty of, when faced with extreme frustration and overwhelming odds, sometimes I do, at least for the moment, want to give up.

However, before going into this I recognized that there might be a possibility where I may want to give up and so deliberately put myself in a position where failure is not an option. Failure means a loss of everything, potentially if not probably homelessness.

Needless to say, that has been very good motivation and incentive to get the company started and going. I knowingly put myself in a position where the only option is victory. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Nothing is impossible. You can do it, the question is, will you?