Barney Heath wanted a 1971 Ford Bronco. But he didn’t have the cash lying around to afford one. So he turned a hobby into a small business making a unique, portable loudspeaker. He hasn’t purchased the Bronco yet, but he’s well on his way.
Heath and his wife, Patty, are involved in their own startup company called BarnBlaster, LLC. The home-based business, headquartered in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, was formally launched in early 2014. Its main focus is selling an electronic item, fittingly dubbed a BarnBlaster.
“It’s a portable loudspeaker that runs on rechargeable batteries and connects to practically any device that produces sound,” Heath explains.“It’s great for tailgating at sporting events, beach parties, camping, or wherever you want to be heard or listen to music.”
The BarnBlaster weighs 34 pounds and hooks up to smartphones, tablets, iPods, and a wide variety of other electronics via Bluetooth or with a hard wire. It is assembled in a water-resistant case that is perfect for outdoor listening. It’s made with a 36-volt system, and the speaker can last over 30 hours on a single charge. It essentially has the same look as a boombox.
Not only was it Heath’s desire to get the classic Ford car, but also it was a bit of an unexpected proposition that led him to try his hand at startup success.
“A friend of mine built something similar to it, but he built it with a wooden box around it,” he says. “I told him I wanted to build one that would be lighter and more portable. So I built one, and the next thing I knew, people were asking me to build one for them.”
To create the devices, Heath orders all the parts online and puts them together in his own garage. He says it takes about 14 hours to assemble one BarnBlaster. He can customize the outside case with a particular team’s colors, such as the orange and blue of the Florida Gators, the garnet and gold of the Florida State Seminoles, or the aqua and orange of the Miami Dolphins. In fact, Dolphins wide receiver Brian Hartline is one of Heath’s customers.
According to Heath, the way he designs his product has been the key ingredient to helping him discover startup success.
“It’s all about the sound quality of the box,” he says. “It really sells itself just by looking at it and seeing what it can do. As soon as people hear about it, they want one.”
In Heath’s words, the most rewarding part of operating such a small business is having the ability to give others a portable outlet to enjoy their favorite songs.
“I’ve always loved music,” he says.”Being able to build a device that people can play their favorite tunes on is fun.”
In addition to running BarnBlaster, LLC, Heath works as a full-time yacht captain for a company that takes boats to the Bahamas and throughout the Caribbean.
Entrepreneurs like Heath must be accounting for competition at all times to separate their ventures from the rest of the pack. He says he is not aware of any speaker devices out there that are similar enough to the BarnBlaster.
“There are some similar devices and companies that make portable loudspeakers in vintage suitcases, but mine is more durable than those. You can kick sand on it or throw mud on it, and it will be just fine. I like to keep that outdoors-y feel to it.”
To make others aware of his product, Heath maintains a company Facebook page. Plus, he includes a dozen business cards in the box of each Barnblaster he sells. Word-of-mouth referrals have been his biggest source of business, he says.
Small business owners in all fields encounter unexpected hurdles and challenges in managing their companies. Heath admits it’s the hands on the clock that have been his biggest bugaboo.
“The time commitment can be challenging,” he says. “When I do get called for my day job, finding time to work on the boxes is tough. But most people don’t mind waiting a few weeks to get them after placing their orders.”
Tips For Aspiring Small Business Owners
Thanks to his own experience running a business, Heath provides some insight into what it takes to find startup success in any line of work.
“If you’re going to start a business, find something you really love to do and are passionate about. In some cases, it might just happen and kind of fall in your lap. I didn’t set out to make this business, but because of the demand for these devices, it just kind of happened.”
The Heaths are clients of 1-800Accountant. Barney Heath says he and his wife have been very satisfied with the accounting support they have gotten from the national accounting and business consulting firm.
“We are just trying to figure out all the tax rules involved in running a business,” he says. “I really didn’t think about all of this beforehand. It’s good to do it the right way, and I am very glad we are working with the experts at 1-800Accountant.”
Photo credit: The photograph of the BarnBlaster included in this blog post was provided by BarnBlaster, LLC and is used with permission.