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Meet the Maker: Adam Liszewski of Stokes

In our Meet the Maker series, you hear from our Makers on their journeys as entrepreneurs and how you, The Grommet Community, have changed their businesses for the better.

Today, we're catching up with Adam Liszewski, the teenage entrepreneur behind Stokes. Stokes are all-natural fire starters that Adam has grown from his original DIY Christmas gifts into a cottage industry—and beyond—in just a few years. Adam’s invention lights fires while helping his local community and the environment . . . and he’s only a teenager. Read on to learn more about his entrepreneurial journey.

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What did you want to be when you grew up?
I am still growing. :)  I just always want to be trying new things, challenging myself, learning, creating things that improve on what’s out there. Like Stokes. Lot of firestarters out there but Stokes (as simple an idea as it is), burns longer and starts easier than what’s out there and also much more environmentally friendly.

What was the biggest hurdle for you when turning your idea into a business?
The biggest hurdle in the beginning was getting people to just try my product. Now, I have to say, that my biggest hurdle is time. Time to do everything that needs to be done. I have more help now so that’s great. I have been very lucky to have great partners in Charles River and with distributors and great relationships with stores I sell Stokes to and great fan base who love them. It make things easier and more fun.

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Stokes All-Natural Firestarters $9.95

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What advice would you give other young entrepreneurs?
Reach out to anyone and everyone to get advice, guidance, and support. But also always listen to yourself. There will always be people who can’t see your idea working when you can. There is always the guy in the room who is negative. Don’t let that negative person stop you–keep going. Be fair in pricing, fair to your employees, and have fun.

What three personality traits do think have helped you become a successful entrepreneur?
1. I don’t over react to negative news.
2. I think I take my time to respond in meetings.
3. I have a lot of energy.

What lessons have you learned so far that might help other entrepreneurs who are just starting out?
Negotiate everything yourself. Know exactly what your costs are and track your margins and inventory every month. Don’t take no for an answer. Stay persistent but polite. Keep calling until you can reach that person you want to reach.

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What has surprised you most about starting a business?
How excited I was. I think back to signing my first check, (I practiced a dozen times on a separate sheet of paper), my first handshake with a store buying Stokes (my hands were sweating), my first lease and getting that first key to my warehouse.  My first meeting with Wholefoods where I said no to one of their demands and my Mom kicked me under the table. I was right and they ended up taking Stokes in. All the small and big milestones. I think what surprises me is how many decisions have to be made daily and keeping all the details straight. I am pleasantly surprised in how helpful everyone has been and continues to be from store managers, to distributors, to customers. People can be very kind and helpful.

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How has business changed since launching on The Grommet? How has our community helped?
Thanks to The Grommet, so many more people outside of the 11 states that Stokes are currently sold are now using Stokes. I get emails daily from all over the country. Huge following on The Grommet and the last time I checked, excellent 5 star reviews. So I'm very grateful to the team at The Grommet and the bigger Grommet community who took a chance on Stokes and thrilled that they all have helped sell over 1 million Stokes!

To learn more about Stokes, watch our video here. You can purchase Stokes, here.

Comments

  • Diana Graham Says:

    What about the sawdust? Most wood is treated with chemicals. How do you source 'clean' sawdust? Thank you.

  • Nicholas Says:

    Not trying to rain on your parade but my wife was a girl scout leader her in the state of Washington from 1970 through 1990 and she taught her troop to make these same exact fire starters. Which by the way my wife learned from her mother. Nothing new here. Next, Paraffin Wax is a highly toxic wax when burned and is a by-product of petroleum. Even the EPA banned its use in candles in 1991. A better recipe is bee wax, soy, and sawdust. This will burn much longer and hotter depending on the sawdust species used. Last but not least all wood burned or cut sawdust is toxic some more than others.

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