It’s an issue that has plagued parties since the time of Dom Perignon: how to make champagne last.
When champions are crowned, wedding knots tied and successes toasted, it’s with champagne. But once the cork pops, it’s only a matter of time before the bubbly goes flat.
It was a problem that part-time inventor Stason Strong sought to fix. With some ordinary tools he made a pistol-shaped device that used the bottle’s carbonation to shoot champagne like a water gun.
After some tweaks from friends at SpaceX, a 3D-printed model accompanied him for years when out on the town, wowing crowds before disappearing again
Finally, his friend Bradley Hall ’05 had had enough.
“For about two years, I just watched people’s reactions every time we’re out—finally, one day, I was like, ‘Look man, I just finished up my MBA, we could I can make this happen, trust me.’ He tried to do a little venture with some friends and it just kind of petered out. He was like, ‘if you think you can do it, let’s go.’”
Bradley Hall ’05
A former vice president of sales and operations for BioScrip Inc., Hall had over 15 years of experience working in the pharmaceutical supply-chain sector, but walked away in September 2017 to take a chance on the secret champagne gun.
It took 14 months to mass-produce the “Bubbly Blaster,” then another year to build the brand before launching in January 2019. Unlike the pharmaceutical industry, this was a whole new experience for Hall.
“Operations is kind of my forte, but I’ve never been in that world of creating customers—that was a bit of a learning curve. Our product’s manufactured outside of Hong Kong, so there’s a little bit of difficulty [between] time-zone differences and communication barriers. It’s a very hard product to scale up, with a very unique design.”
The Bubbly Blaster built enough of a cult following to earn the attention of the NBC show “Shark Tank.” In January 2020, Hall and Strong were invited on the show to pitch their business to potential investors.
A longtime fan of “Shark Tank,” Hall was well aware what a bad presentation on the national show could do to their product. Still, the opportunity was too good to pass up. In the end, they wound up with a joint investment deal between Mark Cuban and guest “Shark” Alex Rodriguez.
“You prep as far as your pitch and whatnot, but your first time walking out, that’s it. It’s a one-and-done, so it’s very nerve racking. It just it happens so quickly, but once they started actually [demonstrating], the product it was a very fun atmosphere. They loved it.” Audiences loved it too. At the time of the episode’s airing, Bubbly Blaster was only appearing in a few Facebook ads and briefly through a flash sale on internet retailer Touch of Modern. Growth came organically through a combination of word-of-mouth and eye-grabbing social media posts, but after “Shark Tank,” they reached a bigger audience than ever before.
As the product found its way to more users, their social media posts became Bubbly Blaster’s best way to advertise. It also helped Hall and Strong reimagine their product, like a bartender using it to refill a drink from across the room.
“Every day we get tens or hundreds of videos from all across the world,” said Hall. “Instantly it’s a conversation starter, so whether you’re doing the same old barbecue or same old bachelor party, as soon as you shoot it one time, it’s instant content. What excites us is every time we see somebody using one, they’re all smiles.” Hall began his career as a pharmacist for independent Florala Pharmacy before moving to a Birmingham company that specialize in IVs and home infusions. It was a field he had little experience in, but through a combination of quality mentorships and hard work he moved through the ranks.
The Bubbly Blaster turns any champagne bottle into a water gun
As a regional general manager, he kept clinics and pharmacies from New Orleans to California stocked and supplied with whatever they needed. For seven years, he was on a different plane every week overseeing hundreds of employees and supervisors.
“That’s where my operational-background kind of thinking comes from. I would go around to sites that are underperforming and look at efficiency. My job was to take all these branches that were in the red, whether it be from a clinical sales or operation standpoint, and get them back on the track to the black.”
That focus on operational efficiency, combined with the MBA he earned from Texas A&M University, has helped Hall tailor the Bubbly Blaster business model to a lean, integrated system he can manage from anywhere in the world
Not having a traditional brick-and-mortar office has freed up Bubbly Blaster’s resources, too, allowing them to invest in advertising and development, rather than furniture and rent, Hall said. It also helps that your business partner is your friend.
“If you’re going to business with somebody, make sure you vet [them] out. There needs to be a high level of trust, because your team or your partner is going to make a break for you.”
As they move into 2021, Hall and Strong are working on several new projects to be developed, tested and released under their umbrella company. One product still in proof-of-concept is a mattress designed specifically for side-sleepers, while another seeks to offer a revolutionary take on the cannabis industry.
“We have no limits,” said Hall. “We just look for the opportunity where it makes sense.”