By: Chace Vineski
AccelNow – Social Media Coordinator
This is part 1 of a 2 part series where we will highlight the journey of new-found inventor and entrepreneur, Mark Sutton, and his product Firestarter Mug.
When Mark Sutton, founder of Firestarter Mug, thought of the idea for his product earlier this year, he didn’t intend to just sit on the concept for long. In fact, once inspiration hit him he wasted no time in route to currently talking with manufacturing companies about making his product…only 3 months after conception. The Kingsport native is not forgetting where he came from either as he is in pursuit of manufacturing his products in the region.
As someone who spends a lot of time on the road, he is a big proponent of convenient travel mugs like the ones that Tervis makes. When Mark was looking for a Tervis mug to give his mother for Mothers Day this year he wanted to find one with a good handle that was suitable for her. However, with the Tervis mugs he’s encountered and researched he found their acrylic handles to be too thin and frail for the user. It was then that he recognized the need for improvements. A few weeks later, at the end of June, he came up with the general concept for his Firestarter Mug. He wanted a handle that was both removable and ergonomically sound to make it comfortable and convenient for the average customer. Where the “Firestarter” part of the name comes in is the added feature that includes a slot that can fit your standard bic lighter so you can conveniently hold a beverage and use a lighter all in one hand. No other handle on the market offers this characteristic that adds a safety factor for users as well.
His rather expedited journey to creating his current prototype would impress even a seasoned inventor. After he visualized the plans in his head in late June he immediately set out to Lowes Home Improvement in the plumbing section to find some inspiration on how to make the improved handle. As a long time contractor he had a good idea of the materials needed and overall ergonomics of the mug handle. Once he got his aha-moment he then filed for a business entity and went full speed ahead towards his vision. He knew he needed professional drawings of his prototype so he reached out to a close friend who is an engineer out in Wyoming, Tom Arthur, to create 2D AutoCAD drawings. After a 2 weeks of multiple renderings, during which Mark filed for multiple provision patents (a temporary 12 month patent filed through the US Patent Trademark Office that establishes an early filing date), they found a design that worked. With those drawings in hand he set out to find access to a 3D printer to make a prototype of the Firestarter Mug in the Kingsport area and that first lead him to RCAM (Regional Center for Advanced Manufacturing). While RCAM had the capabilities to produce his prototype from their 3D printer, they referred him to The Inventer Center, Kingsport’s first Makerspace, which is currently based out of Sync. Space in downtown Kingsport. Being heavily involved in the Maker community and having a 3D printer of their own, they were a perfect fit for entrepreneurs like Mark to create prototypes. Mars Reid, founder of The Inventor Center, and one of their active members helped convert those 2D files to a 3D STL file the next day. Less than 24 hours later Mark had a 3D working prototype of his mug handle that he refers to as “The worlds first and only insulated travel mug with lighter conveniently in handle”. In the span of roughly 3 months, he went from general concept to having a fully functional prototype. As is evident, Mark didn’t let lack of experience or time work against him in his endeavor to bring his products to the market. He’s now in talks with local manufacturing companies and, if the past 3 months are any indication, it won’t be long until he’s selling his Firestarter Mugs faster than he can count.
We will continue to follow his story along the way as he brings his product to customers everywhere. Stay tuned!