From a start-up company with just over $1000 in seed funding, First Aid Pod founders Tony Watts (42), Braedan Trompetter (28) and Craig Latimer (36) are now having to consider whether to order 1000 units from their Chinese manufacturer in the coming weeks.
The three Dunedin supermarket co-workers identified a need for patient privacy for people who had suffered a major medical event or accident, Mr Latimer said.
Places where they could be used included "schools, pools, airports, malls, gyms, ski fields , pretty much anywhere people congregate".
To date, 500 First Aid Pods had been produced, and an monthly turnaround of 1000 was being considered, while their Chinese manufacturer was confident of filling an order for 10,000, if the need arose.
Mr Trompetter said their shelter was seen by Queensland distributor The First Aid Group on social media. The group contacted the trio and got the ball rolling towards the recently clinched distribution deal. Before the Australian deal was inked, customers already signed up there included the Sydney Opera House, Pacific Fair Shopping Centre in Broadbeach, Queensland, Luna Park in Sydney, a branch of St John Australia in New South Wales and the Adelaide Showgrounds.
"We’re also in discussions with another first-aid distributor in Australia. Being such a big country there’s room for more than just the one," Mr Trompetter said.
NZSki was also trialling the pods at the Coronet Peak and The Remarkables skifields this season, and the trio hoped an order would come soon.
"It has to be able to cope with some pretty extreme conditions," Mr Latimer said.
The pods weigh 1kg and sell for $NZ140 here and $A130 in Australia. The trio were not considering adding a defibrillator, which would add more than $2000 to the cost, but they were looking at defibrillator distributors who might be interested an adding the pods to their marketing.
The "next space" they were targeting was more sales and distributors in New Zealand and a UK distributor had also shown interest recently, Mr Watts said.
They remained grounded about their success to date, and were not considering giving up their day jobs any time soon.
As with any small business which was an "overnight success", there was always the problem that supply could not keep up with demand.
"We really don’t want to overcommit and end up undersupplying," Mr Watts said.
The pod had not been trademarked or patented simply because of the cost of doing so, and even if they went down that road, the legal costs of fighting an infringement would be prohibitive.
"We’ve got no capacity to fight it through the courts," Mr Watts said.
So far, while researching the market, they had not found any similar product, he said.
The three said they had "amazing" assistance from the Otago Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise Dunedin and New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, all of which offered free advice and introductions along the way.