Open for Business: Fire Starter

Open for Business: Fire Starter

| By: Britten, Casey

Class project leads to business startup for Business Management grad.

In the final project for the Business Start-up & Launch Experience class, students are required to come up with a comprehensive business plan. As the culmination of everything they’ve learned in class, it’s an important assignment.    

The idea that student Emily Nechodom came up with was so good, she decided to turn it into an actual business. Enter Fire Bricks.

Fire Bricks are a product made from recycled materials and pressed into a brick form. They can be used in a wood-burning fireplace or firepit, or easily transported on camping trips with no mess or restrictions.

“Our family goes camping a lot, and the idea came from hauling firewood—it’s messy,” Emily explains. “I had seen other people take old newspapers and make a product with it. That’s where my idea stemmed from. I just put a twist to it.” The twist is a secret mix of excess materials from area companies. “I wanted to repurpose these clean materials and make a new product out of it,” she explains. 

Packaged in a box of six with some shredded paper, Fire Bricks are ready-made for burning. “They are clean, lightweight and easy for kids to carry and start a fire,” Emily says. “You basically just open up a box and arrange your bricks like you would with firewood. Everything is safe to burn and cook over.”

Production is a family affair. “I started with the help of my husband who owns a welding/fabrication shop that also makes unique fire pit bowls,” she says, adding that she uses the business space to make the bricks, with the help of their three daughters. 

FVTC Entrepreneurship Instructor Doug Schacht helped Emily bring her idea to reality. “Emily’s business idea was great!” he says. “Not only did she have a sound value proposition for the customers—ease of transport, less mess, etc.—she also arranged to have the majority of her supplies donated from other companies that saw it as waste. So not only does her product fulfill a need, it’s made from recyclable materials.”

Doug liked the idea so much, he encouraged Emily to pitch it at the annual FVTC Fox Trap Pitch Event, a competition where students pitch business ideas before a panel of judges for cash prizes. She won first place. She then advanced to a regional competition, where she placed second. “The events were cool experiences,” she says. “I got great practice presenting and reaching out to potential investors.”

Starting a business wasn’t on the agenda for Emily, who enrolled in the Business Management program to move up the ladder with her current employer. “It wasn’t my intention to start a business, but now that I did, I’m very prepared to run a business from what I learned in my classes. I plan to keep going with it on the side, and someday maybe my kids can take over.”

Learn more about Fire Bricks >>