It might have once been described as a leap of faith, but what Dave and Tiffany Kruse have done is now proving effective in helping local firefighters, as well as those around the country and even the world, do their challenging jobs more safely and efficiently.
A journey which began with the implementation of an idea 10 years ago has brought forth KrusePak, a device which allows firefighters to carry two spare self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) bottles on their person as they battle a blaze. The device is especially useful in fighting high-rise fires, and also helpful in fighting other blazes of a special nature.
The persistence and determination to make KrusePak available on the marketplace has resulted in the pair being named Entrepreneur Couple of the Year by the Daily Journal as part of the newspaper’s annual Progress Awards.
Dave Kruse is a veteran firefighter who now serves as a captain for the Kankakee Fire Department. Through his experience, he had learned that fighting certain fires was problematic because of the lack of air supply. Once an SCBA canister was emptied at the fire site, the firefighter had to retreat to a different location to have the supply replenished, and the process cost valuable time and the potential of further damage.
He shared his concerns with his wife, and also explained his idea of creating a device which would rectify the problem. Even though the couple didn’t have much capital to invest in the project and two children at home, Tiffany encouraged Dave to pursue the idea.
He worked with Kankakee Tent & Awning Co. to develop three different prototypes. Upon settling on one of them, the couple began the arduous task of obtaining a patent through the United States Patent and Trademark Office. The year was 2012.
It took three long years to finally secure the patent.
“It was kind of like a court battle fighting for the patent,’’ Dave recalled. By the time the company was incorporated in February 2016, the couple had spent $30,000 out of pocket to achieve their goal.
Then, the marketing of KrusePak began. The first department to consider using it was Dave’s home unit in Kankakee. Just because it was familiar territory, he didn’t assume the lightweight, hands-free carrying device which hauls more than just the SCBA bottles would be embraced.
“It wasn’t just pushed through because I was one of the guys,’’ he said. “I had to go through the same process.’’
Once Dave had gained approval in Kankakee and set the wheels in motion for more success, the prime responsibility for marketing the product turned to Tiffany. She serves as president of KrusePak and KruseCrew, Inc., while Dave is the vice president.
Firefighters are known to resist change and Tiffany didn’t always have a receptive audience to work with, but she quickly adapted. Her previous work in broadcasting and real estate proved handy, as she had already mastered aspects of marketing and social media through the experiences.
“I collected a few people skills along the way,’’ she said.
“You should hear her talk to the fire departments,’’ Dave said. “It’s like she is one of them.’’
The success in marketing KrusePak also received a boost from what might seem unexpected sources.
“Chicago Fire” is a hit television drama which appears on NBC, and it’s also where KrusePak made a high-profile appearance as it was worn by some of the actors playing firefighters on the show. The couple even briefly appeared on air.
“We played ourselves,’’ Tiffany said while both she and Dave shared a laugh.
Another lift came when permanent residential yachts used by the affluent sought the devices to enhance safety on the vessels. Cruise ships are now clients as well as they have use for the KrusePak device.
Then there is the bread-and-butter clients. At least a dozen local fire departments now use KrusePak, and there are dozens more elsewhere, including in 16 different states and the major cities of Chicago, Denver and St. Louis. Additionally, the KrusePak is used in two foreign countries as departments in Chile and the United Kingdom have purchased them.
The future appears bright for KrusePak. As the COVID pandemic slowly recedes, the couple has realized additional marketing opportunities and interest from potential clients has picked up. To meet the growing demand, Tiffany is going to leave another job to focus on the company full time.
“I’ve got a spark lit for 2021,’’ she said.
Dave said an effort to perhaps get involved with a larger corporation to better market the product is ongoing, but they couldn’t be happier with the progress made to this point.
“We have been blessed,’’ Tiffany said.
To learn more about the product and the company, visit krusepak.com.