You only have 2-3 minutes to escape a fire in your house.
That’s how Eric Hartsfield and Brett Russell, both experienced firefighters from Norfolk, Virginia, pitched their “Rescue Ready” ladder in the TV show Shark Tank. In Season 11, Episode 23 of the show, the two firefighters, who also both have a business degree from James Madison University, sought funding for their revolutionary rescue ladder for homes.
Their concept is unique and the pitch made for an enlightening and interesting viewing experience for the fans of Shark Tank. But did they get a deal from the sharks? And what’s new with the company after the episode aired? Read on to find out the latest updates about Rescue Ready.
How did Rescue Ready start their business?
The idea for the business started on their day jobs as firefighters. According to Hartsfield and Russell, people in a house fire only have around three (3) minutes on average to get out of the house towards safety.
In the US alone, around 2,500 people die from fires per year. What makes it more terrifying is that traditional house ladders (the arched types that are frequently stored under the bed) being sold in the market are cumbersome to use. They take a much longer time to set up when a potential fire victim’s vision is impaired because of the smoke and the stress of the fire situation. Lives have been lost as a result of lack of adequate safety protocols.
This repeated witnessing of tragedies during house fires prompted the two firefighters of Norfolk to team up with entrepreneurs, fire survivors, and engineers to build a practical product which they pitched in the Shark Tank. Their idea from their domain expertise is valuable and they sought out the sharks as potential investors who can invest in the product and scale the business.
How does the Rescue Ready ladder work?
Unlike typical house ladders that can be used as a fire escape, Rescue Ready is built into a window’s frame. This is very convenient because people trapped in the second floor of a burning house become disoriented and confused and would likely not remember where the fire safety ladder is. In case a fire erupts, the person can just unwrap the Rescue Ready ladder, flip it over and out the window, and start to climb down.
Here’s a YouTube video from the company showing how easy it is to use the Rescue Ready.
As seen in the video, even a kid can use the Rescue Ready ladder. From the window frame where the ladder is installed, the kid simply unwrapped it, threw it out of the window, and climbed down. In less than two (2) minutes, the kid is out of the house safe.
Did Rescue Ready get a deal on Shark Tank?
Unfortunately, no, they did not get a deal despite the very impressive pitch complete with a fire situation demo on the show. The duo pitched Rescue Ready to the sharks with an ask of $75,000 for 15% stake in the company.
The sharks loved the product but they all agreed that the business model — that is, partnering with window manufacturers to install the product and asking them to pay Rescue Ready a 6% royalty — is not a feasible and sustainable source of income.
Another issue raised by the sharks is that window manufacturers would still have to adjust in a major way just to accommodate the product when installing these on window frames.
“You got to pitch to a window manufacturer that they got to change their formula for success with no upside for them.” Barbara Corcoran told Hartfield and Russell.
All the sharks refused to offer a deal even when they admired the two firefighters’ vision or concept and its potential to save more lives and secure more homes. If they had first approached a window manufacturer and asked for feedback or got an enthusiastic response, Rescue Ready would have made it look more attractive for investment, according to the sharks.
During their interview at the end of the unsuccessful pitch, Hartfield and Russell made a final appeal to the viewing public to support their product to make American homes a safer place for families. They remained optimistic that there will be a willing window manufacturer who can hear them out and take time to incorporate their ladder in new window designs.
What happened to Rescue Ready after Shark Tank?
Failing to secure a deal with the sharks, the firefighters built on their TV exposure and decided to take their idea to a Kickstarter campaign. There were some viewers from the Shark Tank TV show who expressed their support to Rescue Ready on their Facebook page, including families with members who have disabilities or challenges in doing the regular fire drill exercises.
Unfortunately, out of the target $225,000 funding on Kickstarter, there were only 287 backers that gave $66,608. The money raised did not meet Rescue Ready’s Kickstarter funding goal.
What’s new with the Rescue Ready ladder?
Still after Shark Tank and the unsuccessful Kickstarter campaign, the two firefighters continued to develop the product and in 2020, they announced the launch of “Rescue Ready Retrofit.” According to the owners, this is no longer the same product that they demonstrated and pitched to the sharks during the show.
Improvements have been made and they seem to have taken the practical suggestions from Barbara Corcoran. The initial design required the company to partner with window companies so that the ladder can be stored inside the window frame. The new design of Rescue Ready is still the same tough ladder that can hold a maximum of 750 lbs, but is now freestanding and can be easily installed below existing windows.
The revamped product is called Ready Retrofit Fire Escape Ladder. It’s stand-alone and no longer have to fully depend on window manufacturers. Rescue Ready currently offers a model for two-storey homes (an average length of 13 feet) with a promise to build a three-storey variant in the future.
As part of promotions, they also have a book in the works called “Be Rescue Ready with Dottie and Cruz” featuring Dottie and Cruz, two Australian Shepherds that survived a real house fire. The owners of Rescue Ready have also posted videos on fire safety on their Youtube channel and enlisted the help of fire safety advocates for their information drive.
Is Rescue Ready available on Amazon?
Can you buy Rescue Ready on Amazon? We checked and as of July 2020, Rescue Ready ladders do not seem to be available on Amazon yet. However, there appears to be ladders being sold on Amazon that offer similar benefits as Rescue Ready. Here are examples of fire safety ladders similar with Rescue Ready.
What’s the net worth of Rescue Ready now?
As of July 2020, they haven’t made any sale yet and the present net worth of the company is still undetermined. The company is a true startup in the most raw sense of the word, but the potential of the product remains. With proper marketing and manufacturing smarts, it can prove to be a household essential similar to standard safety items like fire extinguishers for residences.
Lessons from Rescue Ready on Shark Tank
Technical knowhow or domain expertise in an industry is certainly a valuable element, but all on its own, it’s not enough to secure a business deal from potential investors. There are many creative concepts that meet a serious need like saving lives in a fire, but the journey to make a viable product goes a long way and involves the inputs of a lot of different people.
A lot of feedback from stakeholders who will be affected by the product and support from target customers is critical towards the success of a business. Being a game changer in the window installation business, the original idea did not fly well with the sharks due to its nature of being an uphill climb, business-wise.
Still, the product may be a good addition to homes everywhere if it’s supported by the movers and shakers of the home construction industry. Rescue Ready may not have gotten a deal on Shark Tank, but time will tell if it will be a fiery, hot product among consumers.