HomeCamp Stove ManufacturersBreeo Interview – From Two Buckets with Holes to US-Based Manufacturing

Breeo Interview – From Two Buckets with Holes to US-Based Manufacturing

Some of the best times in my life have been spent sitting around a fire, either with friends, or relaxing by myself. Beyond wood and fire being the foundation of outdoor cooking, there’s also an innate soothing effect of a bonfire.

Breeo Y Series Fire Pit at Camp
Breeo Y Series Fire Pit at Camp

As much as I enjoy sitting by fire, it’s always been a constant battle to avoid sitting in smoke, and the unavoidable lingering smell on my clothes and hair. While smokeless fire pits are more mainstream now, Breeo was the inventor of the smokeless technology that works much better than saying “I hate white rabbits”.

My cofounder, Andy Kauffman and his friend Junior Troyer developed the technology in a rural setting in Ohio in 2011. Their goal was to create a more efficient burn, resulting in both smoke reduction and even heat for cooking. I met Andy once they had a functioning prototype and the two of us worked together to launch Breeo in 2014.

Trial and error eventually got us to the performance and form factor we were looking to achieve. The original prototype used two different-sized metal buckets to create a double wall structure with air holes along the top edge and base of the inner bucket. This design concept allowed us to build and test different styles of airflow to achieve secondary combustion, which eventually evolved into the final designs that we produce today.

Jonathan Miller, co-founder of Breeo

Secondary Combustion

The thick smoke you see from a fire is a byproduct of incomplete combustion. Feeding the proper amount of oxygen to burn the wood is essential to minimizing the amount of smoke produced. Along with that, a fire that’s burning at a higher temperature will combust more completely and produce less smoke.

The handling of oxygen is key to the design of Breeo’s smokeless fire pit. It has an inner wall and an outer wall, with an air gap in-between. Air is pulled in through the bottom, with their signature X Airflow design, to feed the fire. More air is pulled up through the air gap and fed through holes in the top of the fire pit, while being heated in the process.

Breeo Smokeless Fire Pit on a Beach
Breeo Smokeless Fire Pit on a Beach

That pre-heated air burns more easily and causes what’s called secondary combustion or secondary burn. Not only does it look cool, it’s one of the reasons that Breeo’s firepits are smokeless.

Launching the Brand

With a new product developed, it needed a name to go with it. It’s essential for every brand’s identity, and it’s important because it sticks with the company, usually forever.

I wanted a name with no prior associations that was also easy to spell and say. Breeo is a variation of the Italian word “Brio,” which means vigorous performance.

Jonathan Miller, co-founder of Breeo

In 2014 Breeo launched their brand and Jonathan became the first full-time employee. Him and his wife moved out of their apartment, and into a 17-foot, 1996 Casita Travel Trailer to take the smokeless fire pit across the country.  During this they were off the grid living, so using the Breeo fire pit became a way of life and it led to a number of product innovations.

Cooking on a Breeo Fire Pit Griddle
Cooking on a Breeo Fire Pit Griddle

The fire pit and cooking accessories racked up awards across the country, including at the HPBA Expo, which is a live fire industry trade show. Not only was HPBA great for exposure, it was what led to Jonathan meeting his current co-founder, and changed the trajectory of the company.

I originally met Amos [Stoltzfus] at the HPBA Expo in 2014. Soon after that, he started his company, Penn Eagle Fabrication. I knew that he was a growth-oriented individual and had a deep background in not only metal fabrication but also combustion-related products. His father started DS Machine, a company in Pennsylvania that has been producing wood stoves for over 20 years.

When I heard that he had started his own company I showed up at his facility and asked if he wanted to make fire pits together. This began our partnership to continue building Breeo brick by brick.

Jonathan Miller, co-founder of Breeo

With Penn Eagle Fabrication manufacturing the fire pits, it made sense for Breeo to move from its founding location in Ohio to be close to the facility in Pennsylvania.

In 2017 I partnered with my current partner, Amos Stoltzfus from Pennsylvania. At that point, Andy was ready to move on to other ventures and was excited about the transition. Amos’ company, Penn Eagle Fabrication, had been manufacturing our fire pits. Amos was involved in prototyping some of the original designs back in 2011 while he was still at his family’s business, so he was already part of our journey from the early days. The move to Pennsylvania was a natural progression because of the partnership with Amos and Penn Eagle Fabrication.

Jonathan Miller, co-founder of Breeo

American Success Story

A common way to grow a manufacturing start-up is by leveraging overseas manufacturing. Scaling an asset heavy business is expensive, so it’s a way to help keep costs down, when cash is at a premium.

Breeo Fire Pit Being Produced
Breeo Fire Pit Being Produced

Through all their growth though, Breeo has made it a point to keep manufacturing their fire pits out of thick steel in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. This was especially challenging with the Pandemic boom because it wasn’t easy to flex their manufacturing.

Scaling USA-based manufacturing systems takes a lot of work compared to outsourcing the production. One surprise that we all encountered was the boom that happened as a result of the pandemic. During that time, the outdoor industry was experiencing significant growth, and Breeo felt that impact directly because our products allowed people to get outside and have an enjoyable experience more safely. Manufacturing demand increased and there were periods of many weeks where both Amos and I worked in the production facility to help increase the output.

Jonathan Miller, co-founder of Breeo

Breeo’s manufacturing operation in Pennsylvania isn’t just a random place for labor either. Lancaster has a rich Amish heritage, and they’re part of that community.

Most people don’t realize this, but about 50% of our company are members of the Amish community here in Lancaster, PA. This includes my partner Amos, our CEO. It’s an interesting tidbit about Breeo and one that has had a massive positive impact on the business over the years.

Jonathan Miller, co-founder of Breeo
Welding X Airflow on a Breeo Smokeless Fire Pit
Welding X Airflow on a Breeo Smokeless Fire Pit

Growth

Through their marketing and great products, Breeo has seen tremendous growth since its founding. They’ve traditionally been a direct-to-consumer (DTC) business, but they’ve also found valuable retail partners recently to work with. This helps extend their reach beyond the DTC market.

While a vast majority of Breeo’s business is direct-to-consumer focused, our partnerships with ACE, Home Depot, and other valued dealers are strategic expansions to allow more people to experience Breeo by meeting them in places they already visit on a regular cadence.

Jonathan Miller, co-founder of Breeo

An area that’s helped their growth, and the theme of this website, is they’ve always focused on cooking with their fire pits. Their Outpost Grill is one of the best cooking accessories of any fire pit because of the control it offers. They also make a griddle and a traditional kettle, so there’s no shortage of cooking options.

Cooking on a Breeo Fire Pit Outpost Grill
Cooking on a Breeo Fire Pit Outpost Grill

Most recently they released the best fire pit pizza oven on the market. It has great design to it, and like all their products, it’s made of thick steel that will last.

Growth Capital

As a start-up, making quality products is expensive. Breeo’s bill every month for raw steel has to be through the roof. Despite that, they’re taking a very responsible path to growth.

We’ve always maintained an approach to managing the business as a lean, bootstrapped startup. We have never taken outside money and have very little debt.

We plan to maintain the business model we’re currently utilizing to keep the business growing sustainably, without the need to recapitalize in the future.

Jonathan Miller, co-founder of Breeo

Their overall capital management strategy means that we’ll see Breeo around for a long time. Bootstrapping their business likely aided them through the years since the Pandemic when demand in the overall market shifted. They didn’t have to answer to any shareholders or have debt to drag them down.

Future of Breeo

From discussing the story of Breeo with Jonathan, what stands-out to me is how great, and unique, Jonathan’s relationship with the product is. Some founders launch a product as a business idea and don’t live the product. Jonathan has lived off the grid, constantly using the product, and has worked in the production facility making it.

Roasting Marshmallows on a Breeo Smokeless Fire Pit
Roasting Marshmallows on a Breeo Smokeless Fire Pit

From that experience, he gets the brand more than anyone, which ultimately trickles down to a great product experience for the customer. It’s exactly what you want from a brand, and they’re doing it the right way.

As for the future of Breeo, they’re committed to what they’ve always done.

As our namesake suggests — vigorous performance — you can always expect Breeo to continue innovating and producing our fire pits here in the US to maintain the premium level of product and performance we’ve always delivered.  We have several new product launches slated in the future to continue to round out our ecosystem and provide our users with added versatility and value. The cadence of releases is currently planned to roll out new products multiple times a year for the next two years. We’ve got a few big things in the pipeline that we’re excited to unveil to the market.

Jonathan Miller, co-founder of Breeo
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