Two-time Shark Tank Entrepreneurs Receive SBA Maker Award

A small spark can be all it takes to ignite a major blaze. Ten years ago, local entrepreneur Konel Banner watched an elderly man set a rock on fire, and the idea spread quickly. Banner and co-founder Frank Weston received a 2017 SBA Utah District Office Small Business Maker Award Monday for their fire starter business, Instafire, from Small Business Administration (SBA) Utah District Director Stan Nakano at the Freeport West D-5 Building in Clearfield, Utah.

Each year, the Maker Award committee selects a winner who has developed, manufactured and sustained a patented product. The business must be growing and expanding, with a strong business record of stability and sales for at least three years.

“The Maker Award recognizes innovative and creative businesses on a local level,” says Nakano. “Instafire took advantage of services the SBA offers and did really well in that space. Their product line speaks for itself.” 

With $1.2 million in sales last year and a projected $3 million in sales for this year, Instafire is going strong. Walmart, for example, now carries Instafire products in 2,800 stores in the U.S. and Canada, up from 1,200 stores last year.

“You always dream about success,” says Instafire co-founder and president Frank Weston. “That’s what keeps you going. We’ve had our share of bumps in the road, but as entrepreneurs always say, if it were easy, everyone would be doing it.”

Although Banner’s rock-igniting experience in 2007 sparked an idea, it took years before the idea became a viable product and profitable business.

Banner met Weston in 2008. The pair spent months working in an abandoned warehouse perfecting their formula until they created a product that was safe, reliable and easy to use. When they were ready to take their fire starter to market, they asked the Northfront Business Resource Center (NFBRC) at Davis Technical College for help with hiring advisors, developing the products and planning the business. NFBRC also assisted in research for the company’s first Shark Tank appearance in February 2016, which increased the company’s exposure and sales dramatically.

 Instafire’s Shark Tank appearance led to a follow-up episode in February 2017, where they landed a purchase order for 2.1 million in products with KMG International, a green energy company, to help energy-poor areas in developing nations.

“We knew we had a good, viable product,” Weston says. “We knew we were going to have success. It was just a matter of how quickly we were going to get there.”