By Chris Meehan | Jul 26, 2021
Portable showers and water-management solutions
Ballesteros says he started Geyser Systems "while living in the back of a van in Australia."
"The thing that I would run out of first was water," he says. "I just decided I need to find a new alternative way to make the most of every drop of water."
He explains that existing camping showers didn't heat enough or took too long to heat up, and used too much water. "That's when I came up with the problem statement that I needed to find a way to make the most of every drop of water in my base camp, wherever I go."
That evolved into Geyser Systems, a portable washing system that can clean adventurers, their gear and their kitchen with just a few gallons of water. The product has proven popular so far, with Ballesteros anticipating 5X sales growth in 2021 over 2020.
The company currently offers two versions: one, for $80 more, that heats the water and another that requires users to heat the water externally with a stove. Both systems are powered by a 12-volt DC plug and they pump water through an interchangeable sponge-type attachment that users can turn off at the hose to reduce water use as needed. Ballesteros says the system is about 80 percent lighter than a comparable shower system.
As for manufacturing, Geyser Systems does "100 percent of our assembly here in Montrose," Ballesteros says. "The majority of our parts are made in the United States. A smaller percentage is done internationally. . . . There are just some common, off-the-shelf components that you will not find a manufacturer for here in the United States."
The company doesn't currently injection-mold components onsite, he adds. "Generally speaking, it would not be a good idea for a startup because of the capital requirements. We're not in the plastic injection-molding business. We don't have the money to ramp that up."
While Ballesteros founded the company in Austin, Texas, he moved it to Montrose, Colorado, in early 2020, after participating in the ICELab Catapult Outdoor Industry Accelerator in Gunnison, Colorado. While in Austin, the company had five employees manufacturing and assembling the systems; in Montrose, that's already grown to 17 employees on two shifts.
Ballesteros says that Colorado has aligned more with Geyser Systems' values and interests. "First and foremost, Colorado is a little bit more outdoor gear business-friendly," he explains. "Investors here have been much more receptive. And I'm also really happy and impressed with the level to which key leaders in Colorado are willing to really just at the very least listen, but also work with a company like mine."
Currently, the company's products are most geared for use by overlanders, car campers, and RVers. "I would not recommend lugging this around in the backpack," Ballesteros quips.
The adoption by those groups has been quick, and Geyser Systems' products are already being sold in REI, and offered by high-end overland vehicle makers like TouRig and it's been featured in Backpacker and other publications.
"There are segments outside of the outdoor gear industry that we want to also take on that we feel like we can make a real big difference for," says Ballesteros, citing emergency and disaster recovery, the military, and home healthcare as potential segments.
The efficient use of water in these applications could have significant impacts. "We have a six-pack that is super easy to carry and fast enough for a forward operating base to deploy in 15 minutes and actually take care of 40 soldiers," Ballesteros offers as an example. By significantly reducing the water needed to keep soldiers, their kitchen and their equipment clean, it reduces the amount of water that's transported to the forward base -- "which would of course reduce casualty rates," he asserts.
The company is still prototyping different designs to meet those needs. "Creating a converted modification, like an incremental change to our design, is very easily done. We've already done prototypes for cancer patients," says Ballesteros. "It's not really hard to make a slight modification so that it's compatible with wall outlets or a 120-volt version."
He adds, "Ultimately we want to make the most impactful difference for the people who would use our product. And we listen before we start putting things in front of different people."
With the ability to make models for specific purposes and the ability to target the devices to new audiences, like hunters, he anticipates that the company will continue to grow. Ballesteros anticipates having roughly 100 employees in the next four years.
"I think we're doing really good right now, considering that we're 100 percent assembled in Montrose and I think by that time, we're going to be a multinational company and we're going to be manufacturing more in-house," he says.
Challenges: "Finding the right talent is right now the most important thing, because we want to do things a little differently," Ballesteros says. "We are looking for people who are really committed to their own growth and development and really interested in not just coming to work, looking for a paycheck, but they're really looking to grow with this company long term."
Opportunities: "I see new products on the horizon that we're going to be developing, not just for the outdoor gear industry, but even for the world. I see new opportunities that would position the state of Colorado as well as the country for exporting technology. And I think that's probably the most exciting opportunity that we currently see is driving growth through insightful identification of real needs in the market," Ballesteros says.
Needs: "Our immediate needs right now are people and floor space," says Ballesteros. "We're in a very small shop and it's a humble beginning, but it makes the most sense for where we stand right now."
He adds, "The growth projections may require an equity fund, but we're not going to just allow anyone to sit down at the table with us. We would only accept the kind of investor that would really want to set a new precedent amongst the investment community."