Sioux Falls entrepreneur Ron Heiman has helped put out fires in many ways—physically and metaphorically—during his career. The president of Sioux Falls-based Heiman Fire Equipment has dabbled in a handful of businesses, and is now officially in the tumbler industry.
“I’m an engineer by trade, so I started coming up with some blueprints on bar napkins,” he said. “Like, ‘Here’s what we can do and what we can’t do.’ That’s how it all developed.”
What is now Arctic Sombrero started out as a passion project with Heiman and his brother-in-law, Kris Breien. The inspiration? Simply wanting a way to keep their drinks ice cold and concealed for a multitude of reasons. Some of those included family commitments, like sports games and days by the pool.
And while the end result was for fun, it took five years of hard work.
“We’ve come up with 10 different renditions of it—maybe 20 or 30, even,” he recalled. “I’ve got a closet of 3D models we’ve done. You come up with something really good, and you can’t manufacture it, or you can’t manufacture it efficiently. Then you have to go back to the drawing board.”
After years of research and testing, the pair landed on a custom lid that would fit a stainless steel 30-ounce tumbler. Products can be purchased as both the lid and tumbler together and also as the solo lid for the customer’s personal tumbler of choice. The lid works by clipping to 12 ounce cans of any beverage, which are then placed into the tumbler surrounded by a chamber of chilled water.
The customer can drink anything from a seltzer to an IPA to whatever they desire from one side of the lid, and on the other side is a hole for a straw to consume the iced water that’s also keeping the can frosty cold.
“You can have two drinks in one without diluting the other. We came up with something that should be pretty impregnable, in the United States anyway,” said Heiman, who also mentioned the product has a utility patent and is in the midst of a design patent.
Along with prototypes, the team went through plenty of names for the product. A few included Ice Dunk, Beer Snorkel, Drip Tap, Frosty Paw, and Can Squid. Just like its inception, the name came up casually.
“We were out with my wife and some friends, and she came up with Arctic Sombrero,” he said.
The product recently launched online and already has had orders from retailers like JJ’s Wine, Spirits, & Cigars and select Scheels and Ace Hardware locations. Artistic Sombrero also recently tied for third place at the 2021 Governor’s Giant Vision Competition in late April, hosted by the South Dakota Chamber of Commerce & Industry.
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“The original idea was to build a Shopify site and work out the kinks slowly,” he recalled. “Now it’s starting to pick up. We’re pivoting every day.”
Heiman says the company tries to stay as local as possible, including having printing done by Panther Graphics in Sioux Falls and production by Falcon Plastics in Brookings.
“Everything we do is in South Dakota. I want to do everything here,” he said. “I want to just make America a little better and bring jobs back here. No reason to bring that anywhere else.”
His family is also heavily involved, with contributions including the Arctic Sombrero logo created by his godchild, and a packaging assembly line of sorts being operated by his three children.
“At night, they’ll come in and we’ll put the O-rings on and the gasket,” he said. “We’re making boxes and bagging them.”
Heiman joked that he pays them in “food and lodging.”
Ron also owns Sherpa Wheels, which is a heavy-duty cart designed primarily for Yeti coolers.
“I’ll come home and [my daughter] Amy will be like, ‘What’d we sell today, Dad?’ And we’ll go through our sale sheet. They’re interested in the business and the whole process.”
His children offer a prime example of how Arctic Sombrero is for more than alcoholic beverages, mentioning they love using it for soda, like 7-Up.
“The whole can might last a day, but it stays cold all day,” said Heiman. “Your last drink will be colder than your first; I can tell you that.”