Hot Idea: Wyoming Machine Works with Entrepreneur to Create Award Winning Camp Stove

Kent Hering and his wife, Betsy, have come a long way since their first camping trip in 1976 where they discovered they couldn’t start a fire. Years later, Kent is owner and founder of Littlbug Enterprises, producer of light-weight, stainless steel camp stoves. They require no maintenance kit, spare parts, wind screens or heat exchangers. Best of all, the stove can be rolled up in a sleeping pad instead of taking up space in a pack. At just five ounces. Littlbug Jr. is a backpacker’s dream-come-true. Wyoming Machine teamed up with Kent to enhance the design and produce it.

The inspiration for Littlbug came during Kent’s first backpacking trip. He learned the hard way that his 60 lb. backpack weighed far, far too much. So he shopped for an ultra-light, wood and alcohol-burning stove—to no avail.

An electrical engineer, Kent likes to tinker. Thus began his pursuit to make the ideal backpacking stove. However, Kent had no tools and no sheet metal experience. But always the optimist, as Kent says with a smile, “I learned a lot of lessons.” Yet his concept remained the same: create a small stove of two interlocking pieces that join to cook, but separate and nest to pack. In 1999, Kent received a patent for his design.

Eventually, Kent discovered Wyoming Machine. “My company is based on respect for the earth and fellow human beings. We donate 10 percent of our profits to environmental and humanitarian causes. What I discovered about Wyoming Machine is that they’re a women-owned business also committed to helping people and communities. That was important to me.”

john-and-kent
Wyoming Machine Estimator John Hanenburg and Kent Hering, founder of Littlbug Enterprises

Also important, of course, is Wyoming Machine’s eagerness to team up with customers. When Kent met with John Hanenburg, estimator, Kent quickly discovered that John’s 16 years sheet metal experience meant exacting advice and a product that precisely met his needs.

According to John, “Working with those who lack sheet metal experience often means we have only sample parts, verbal descriptions, drawings or incomplete sketches. To proceed, we create drawings so everyone is working with the same design. Then, we recommend modifications to allow standard off-the-shelf material and/or processes that will minimize the cost or enhance the design.” John was especially impressed with how Kent made the stove so easy to erect and collapse. “It was very clever,” he said.

John isn’t alone in that assessment. Littlbug won an award from the Minnesota Inventors Congress. It’s also the top rated small, wood-burning camp stove and has received numerous endorsements by leading outdoor adventurers.

Kent is equally pleased with Wyoming Machine. “The folks at Wyoming Machine have always gone the extra mile for me, making the sure the job is done right and that I am fully satisfied with the results.”

And what’s the most valuable lesson Kent has learned as an entrepreneur? “I used to view a bump along the way as a problem. What I initially perceived as a problem usually turned out to be an opportunity. Now, instead of looking back to recognize opportunity, I anticipate the opportunity hidden in every bump. Perceiving events as opportunities instead of problems is a paradigm shift that enables me to embrace the vagaries of business, and has spilled over into my personal life as well.”

To order, or for more information, click here: Littlbug Enterprises.

Wyoming Machine, based in Stacy, Minn., is a women-owned sheet metal fabricator established in 1974. Traci and Lori Tapani, owners and Co-Presidents, guide the 56-employee business in a 55,000 sq. ft. facility. They compete internationally, creating parts and products for companies ranging from medical device and computer manufacturers to heavy machinery. The longevity of their clients and employees is a testament to how well they serve both.

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