When I was a kid, I loved playing with the Aerobie, a frisbee with a a giant hole in the center, resembling more a ring of Saturn than a disc. The Aerobie would fly for days. I loved having enough time to run and run to chase it down in flight, a feeling I enjoy even today even though I haven't seen an Aerobie in years. Instead, I satisfied my love for chasing down flying objects playing the outfield in little league and later in recreational softball.
It's perhaps testament to how much we pigeonhole our inventors that I was shocked to discover that the inventor of the Aerobie Alan Adler was also behind the popular coffee-making device the AeroPress. Today the success of the AeroPress seems self-evident, but this wasn't an overnight sensation. One might say it falls into the category of slow burn hits.
Despite a great showing, initial success didn’t come easily for the AeroPress. Tennant recalls pleading with one prominent sales rep group not to drop the product due to low sales. As Adler recalls:
“Aerobie spent over 20 years establishing distribution for sporting goods, and all of a sudden, we were confronted with creating distribution for kitchenware. We didn’t leap into this lightly.”
The AeroPress struggled over the next few years; at one point, 2007 sales were even lower than 2006 sales and it appeared as if the product would fizzle out and flop. After years of familiarizing himself with the sporting goods market, Tennant was tasked with convincing house-ware distributors and retailers to sell “an odd looking, completely new kind of coffee maker made by a toy manufacturer.”