As Texans, we know all too well the perils of summertime. We become walking mosquito buffets the second we step out of the house, scorch the backs of our legs on car seats turned stove-tops in the sun, and transform all our clothing into wearable pieces of modern art due to various sweat stains after five minutes outside. We natives are masters at doing pretty much anything while discretely wiping off a sweat mustache—and let’s face it, there really is no cute way to do that.
Luckily, one Texas company feels our pain and has the answer to our sweat-soaked prayers. Portacool is revolutionizing the way we combat the summer heat. From football sidelines to remote military bases, Portacool portable evaporative cooling units are the go-to “when comfort counts.”
I had the opportunity to talk with Ben Wulf, the new CEO of Portacool, and a key proponent in keeping the company’s roots local while allowing it to spread its branches internationally.
Portacool provides cooling relief for more than 22 NFL teams and 200+ collegiate teams. What has been the coolest experience working with these teams (pun intended)?
The sheer visibility of our products on the sidelines has made the athletic area one of the most visually powerful marketing platforms we have in place. In fact, it was a televised Monday Night Football game in the early 1990s that helped catapult our product into the mainstream. Over the years, our cooling solutions have become a key tool for athletic directors/equipment managers in keeping players safe during the hottest practices and aid in quelling heat-stress related issues. From practice to game day, we are proud that we can help keep players safely cool and comfortable. Fun fact: We realized we had become synonymous with the gridiron sidelines when the digital Madden football game included renderings of our coolers on their sidelines in the game a few years ago.
Any interesting stories regarding your partnership with the military?
To quote one of our veteran salesmen, “We’ve been cooling war fighters since 1990.” Use of our products to cool the military in Kuwait and the Middle East during the Gulf War was a catalyst. Today, we are listed and stocked through the military’s DLA system. Our cooling solutions are used in a number of places – from hangars, repair bays, mess halls, living quarters and training facilities.
As a Texas company, how do you feel the culture and personality of the state impacted the business?
The Portacool team is very proud of our Texas heritage. What started with one product and two entrepreneurs 25 years ago in the small East Texas town of Center (near the Louisiana border), has grown into an international company with a full line of portable evaporative cooling solutions. Every owner, from Dallas-based Rosewood to the Swiss-based owner we have now (Meier Capital) – has kept our headquarters in Center because they appreciate the workforce, the culture and overall pride of our East Texas roots. We would not be the company we are today if we had been relocated.
Does being anchored in a small town in Texas allow your business to stay more grounded and in touch with its client base?
While logistics of travel can be a daunting for our team and our partners, we have made it work thanks to technology. Also, we make sure to employ people in the regions where we do business to ensure a personal relationship is forged and maintained. We find that our global distributors and customers like working with us very much. There is something about Texas hospitality and our genuine approach in these relationships that really is attractive to our international business partners. They love our southern hospitality! For us, it’s just who we are as Texans and how we were raised. We’ve also noticed that the image of being a Texas-based company is highly marketable. They recognize Texas and all that people associate with Texas as a culture almost before they do America, in general.
I understand you just opened a new distribution center in Dallas. Is staying in Texas and keeping the roots of the company local important to you?
Yes, the Dallas distribution center made great business sense when you look at the proximity and distribution ability. It also allowed us to keep that Texas culture of our company and a like-minded approach to work. We could have explored other avenues, but staying within Texas and ensuring we have a team there with our same work ethic – sense of urgency, attention to detail, pride in your work – that was very important to us.
Which use of Portacool have you found to be the most unusual or rewarding?
It is rewarding to know that we are helping people stay safer in hot conditions with our evaporative cooling. From manufacturing, automotive, residential and pets – spot cooling to help drop the temperatures in the hottest conditions is what we do.
We saw on your blog that you raffled off a pink Portacool Cyclone 2000 to benefit the American Cancer Society, is that cause something you feel passionate about?
Yes, we have had a number of team members affected by cancer. We try to reach out to our communities wherever and whenever we can, so we have worked with a number of local and national organizations over the years.
Where do you see the company 5 years from now?
We see our company growing and expanding our U.S. and global operations. We are looking forward to providing some new technology in the portable cooling world – so stay tuned!
We speak for everyone when we say thank you, Portacool, for making these Texas summers a lot more bearable. Visit Portacool for more information or to order a portable evaporative cooling unit.
By Cameron Spinks