Kelly Perry - 00:01 - You are listening to the team flower podcast where we talk about flowers with the people who've dedicated their lives to sharing them with the world. We believe that your work with flowers matters and wer'e cheering each of you on. Hi, my name's Kelly and today we're talking with Patty Parsons from CoolBot. I think she's so inspirational. I actually invited her to come to the conference and we gave her the Innovation Award and um, I did that because CoolBot has really shifted and changed this whole cooling piece for florists where our other options were so expensive and now they brought it to a place where it's affordable and something that we can bring into our homes. She started the CoolBot business with Ron Khosla who invented the CoolBot in 2007. He was a farmer and she was a caterer. CoolBot started on a shoestring budget in both Patty and Ron worked seven days a week out of their home for five years to get it going as word spreads.
Kelly Perry - 00:58 - So did CoolBot's customer base. Now, growers, florists, caterers brewers, and even hunters in the United States are owners of the CoolBot. In this episode, we're talking about the history of CoolBot as well as how it works and why it's effective. You'll learn about how it's helpful for florists and how it is a great sustainable option. Patty shares tips for insulating and we discussed the various types of containers and rooms that can be converted into a cooler minds, the back of an old refrigerated truck that wasn't being used anymore. We're chatting about the importance of knowing who your market is and how to serve them as you meet their need. What types of new innovations CoolBot is rolling out next. This podcast is brought to you by team flower and online support community dedicated to educating, connecting, and empowering flower lovers worldwide. We provide online classes, in person events and free weekly resources designed to support you in your journey with flowers.
Kelly Perry - 01:55 - Whether you're professional florists, flower farmer, or you just love flowers. There is room for you here. You're welcome. Come join the party at teamflower.org. Welcome, Patty to the podcast. So great to have you here today.
Patty Parsons - 02:10 - Thank you. It's great to be here.
Kelly Perry - 02:14 - Oh, well Patty, we, um, we only got to talk just very briefly at the conference and um, I was like, I want to talk to her more. There just wasn't, there just wasn't time, um, to be able to touch base. But of course, you know, we awarded CoolBot the Innovation Award at the team flower conference this year and I just knew there were. So I wanted to hear more about the story and just how it came to be and um, share that with the people who listened to the podcast. I think that hearing other people's stories is just really inspiring to me. And sometimes our work with flowers can take us in directions that are a little bit different than maybe what we originally thought they might look like. And so that's one of the reasons why I just think that your story is so cool and fun because, you know, I'm not sure, you know, even if you ever thought that you'd have a life where flowers were a part of it or not. And so, but here you are servicing florists with coolbots all over the place. So I'm excited to talk about it.
Patty Parsons - 03:18 - We had a similar background. Um, my business partner, Ron Khosla, was a farmer. He had a CSA growing fruits and vegetables in upstate New York and realized that he needed cold storage and also realized that I'm in the business. He was in pulling pennies out of the ground. Literally it would be a really long time to save up the $5,000 that he was quoted for refrigeration equipment. But I'm being incredibly smart and resourceful. He started picking up air conditioners that people were tossing away in, in their trash piles by the side of the road, and he would bring them back to the farm and tinker with them till he either broke them or didn't succeed. And then finally started having some successes as he realized how to manipulate the air conditioner and it took about a year.
Patty Parsons - 04:14 - It was originally a light bulb hanging from a spliced wire and um, sometimes it would be nice and cold in his cooler way colder than an air conditioner. And I was pretty impressed. I was in catering at the time, so I was using walk in coolers all the time I was used to them. And um, when Ron came to me one day and said that he'd figured it out, I was interested, I was excited and I knew that this could be a really good product. I had no idea how many different types of customers we could possibly touch with this. But it's florists and, and flower growers have been some of our most receptive customers.
Kelly Perry - 05:03 - Yeah. Wow. That is so, so fantastic. So tell us a little bit about your role in the business. You kind of, you know, we're a part of watching him tinker through this process and invent, you know, invented and then tell us kind of where, where it started with your relationship with the company and how, um, yeah, how you work with them even to this day. So just tell us a little bit more about that progression for you.
Patty Parsons - 05:28 - Yeah, I, um, I purchased my produce for my home and for the restaurant I was working in at the time I was buying my produce from Ron and Kate's farm, the Huguenot Street Farm in New Paltz, New York. And um, that's how I knew Ron and Kate and um, we, uh, so once I saw what he was doing with that I was, I was completely impressed and I'm. So after we started the business, Ron took care of the business aspect of store it cold and um, went on to design the circuitry for the coolbot and, and worked with a designer and um. So he was very busy with that. His wife Kate pretty much took over running the farm and I took over the customer support side of the business.
Patty Parsons - 06:25 - I probably talked to the first 5,000 customers myself. I still remember a lot of their names. Most of them are still our customers today. Um, some have grown and expanded and um, every now and then we hear from somebody for a that needs a new sensor. Um, but most of those CoolBots are still in existence.
Kelly Perry - 06:48 - Yeah. That is a really, really cool, super, super exciting.
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Kelly Perry - 07:46 - Tell us a little bit about the florist you are using the coolbot. A little bit about what their experience has been and um, yeah, just how it's helping them and I can share a little bit too. I use the coolbot here and run it in a, run it in the back of an old refrigerated truck, but only the, the storage sort of part of it. There's no more truck anymore. But anyway, I can talk a little bit too about how we sort of set ours up. But yeah, just tell us about some of some of the floors, maybe a couple of the stories, maybe some of those early people that you had talked with and worked with that you still keep in touch with some of those allstar customers. How is it working for them?
Patty Parsons - 08:25 - Our Legacy customers that love them?
Kelly Perry - 08:26 - Legacy customers. That's awesome.
Patty Parsons - 08:29 - Um, we hadn't considered florists really as far as one of the groups of people that we're going to be using the coolbot.
Kelly Perry - 08:29 - Interesting.
Patty Parsons - 08:42 - Yeah. We had only considered farms, which Ron was involved in and food which I was involved in. So I'm florists are some of the happiest customers. The CoolBot system is not as drying as a standard refrigerator compressor and florists call me back and tell me that they're flowers last several days, longer in, in, in a cooler with a CoolBot than they ever did with, um, with a standard refrigerator compressor. And you can adjust the fan speed on an air conditioner, unlike a refrigerator compressor and for um, florists who only do special events, you can turn this whole system off for a week at a time if you want, when you're not using it. Um, standard refrigerator compressors don't really like to be turned off and on like that.
Patty Parsons - 09:41 - So it saves money in lots of ways. But, um, the fact that a CoolBot coolers tend to run at a, between about 85 and 90% humidity is just great for florists.
Kelly Perry - 09:58 - It absolutely is. And that's one of the things that I really love about using it here is that I can shut it off for days, weeks at a time. And there's, it's just like, you just press a button and you know, everything's okay, like so low maintenance in that regard. And actually in the winters here up in Boone and today it's snowing. Um, you know, there's not a lot of floral work or demand for flowers that are going on up here right now. And so in the wintertime, my cooler space turns into all of my big urns and arbors and things like that that I would use for weddings that, you know, I, it turns into just storage space for me and I know it's, you know, I just turn everything off and it's good to go in there for the wintertime patio furniture, all that kind of stuff for all the wintertime things. It finds its way into the cooler. And then, um, you know, whenever it's time, all my seeds starting stuff.
Kelly Perry - 10:51 - And so now I'm actually, I was out there today pulling out some stuff to get some seeds started and to move some buckets around and all that kind of stuff that now it's starting to be spring. So I'm going to get some of that stuff out of there. And get it going, but that is so nice to be able just to have that, um, the ability to shut it off and to use it kind of on an as needed basis. But it can of course run. It can run a consistently as well too, if that's something that you have a need for. So. But yeah, Jesse's, Jesse's the one who um, who manages the CoolBot in all of its functions out there and he always checks on it, make sure everything that everything's good and up and running. But just if you happen to be listening and I'm just kind of, and you've never heard of CoolBot before, I'll just sort of describe it a little bit. It works with an air. Please feel free to correct me if I, um, some of the technicals here I'm probably not going to get right. But basically you just buy an air conditioner that is powerful enough for whatever size space it is that you're using.
Kelly Perry - 11:51 - And all of these details are listed on CoolBot website. Like what size of air conditioner you would want to get for what size of space? And my space is pretty big, I think. I think it's about 8 by 15, so I got the really big air conditioning and a, just a little tip on that. I got it right as summer was over, so I got it at Walmart on clearance and it was like half price. So that was even a bigger cost savings for us. And then the CoolBot works with the air conditioner to say hey, no, make it go even colder than um, so it plays with the thermostat a little bit in that air conditioner. So it's just those two pieces you can build the CoolBot, you know, it's kind of like a building the framework for shed. You just want to make sure it's really, really well insulated.
Kelly Perry - 12:35 - So mine is um, mine is like I was mentioning sort of the back of refrigerated trucks, so at one point it had that kind of compressor sort of system in it and you know, we got all of that covered up and put some new walls and more insulation in the floor and the ceiling and all the walls in and got a good door on it and um, it's kind of just like I'm sorta just looks like a shed that I need to paint and look, make, look cute because right now it just sort of looks like, um, yeah, that it needs attention. It is an old truck. Yeah. But tell you what, what did I overlook? What did I miss?
Patty Parsons - 13:14 - Oh, we have all kinds of coolers out there. Some very rustic and some very beautiful. Yeah. Installation is key to this. Um, a lot of people do, like you're doing and use the back of a truck. I'm shipping containers are also very popular so people are able to get. I'm already insulated shipping containers that were originally used as refrigerated shipping or a frozen food shipping. And they set them up in their barn or, or anywhere in the shade. Um, some people use a repurposed shed. Um, installation is the key. You can do it any way, any way at all and as long as you have the right sized window, air conditioner and um, great installation and the CoolBot
Patty Parsons - 14:11 - and there's lots of videos on our website that a show people, um, how, how you can insulate a trailer, a mobile application, um, or how you can repurpose a stationary shed or stationary trailer like you have. And there's lots of ideas on our website. And the CoolBot, even the largest size air conditioner, it's still only going to cost you in the neighborhood of $2 a day to run that at refrigerator temperatures. So it is way less expensive to run than a standard uh walk in cooler with a standard compressor. And you could also have an air conditioner on standby, just in case your air conditioner dies. You can have, you can reinserted new air conditioner in a matter of an hour.
Patty Parsons - 15:12 - You don't have to wait for refrigeration guy to come. You don't have to pay, pay him, I'm the crazy prices, uh, to, to, um, come over and fix your system. It's, it's such a do it yourself system and you can have your own backup there so you never really have to be without refrigeration.
Kelly Perry - 15:35 - That's a really good point. I'm glad that you mentioned that. And also glad that you mentioned the, um, the aspect about how much it costs to run the cooler per day because that's a question that I would get in my little calculations. I thought it was about, about a dollar. So that's really good. Just to sort of have a little bit of that range between about a dollar in $2, you know, with the refrigeration costs. And of course that'll be a little bit different for everybody, but that's such a. that's I'm glad that you brought that up. Thank you for mentioning that.
Patty Parsons - 16:09 - Sure. Yes. Very economical. Um, and it depends on what part of the country you're in and how much your electricity costs and
Kelly Perry - 16:17 - where you live,
Patty Parsons - 16:17 - how hard it is, and how good your installation is. You do a really good job of insulating you're gonna save money on absolutely every electric bill.
Kelly Perry - 16:27 - Yeah. Well, and that is something that I will say and maybe maybe why my could potentially be a little bit lower than that $2 mark. We did invest a lot in um, installation whenever we put that, put it together initially. So it was already insulated because it had been refrigerated, but we added quite a bit to that and I'm trying to remember, Oh boy, I wish I knew exactly how much we had added to it. But anyway, the concept stays the same and I think to considering the floor, a lot of a lot can leave through the floor. So that can be an area that you know, maybe is forgotten in the installation piece. So that is a piece that we felt like was important.
Patty Parsons - 17:04 - Yes, very actually opposite from building a house. You're trying to keep the cool air in and cooler naturally falls. So your biggest cool air loss would be through your floor. So we always recommend anybody who wants to get their cooler down to 40 degrees or below, add insulation in the floor. It really does pay for itself quickly.
Kelly Perry - 17:24 - Mm. Yeah. Really good information. Well, tell us, maybe this is something that. Well, in one of the reasons why I just felt like this was such an important product to bring to the light within our community is this sustainability aspect and also just how it ties to cost and being cost effective, I think is sustainable for the earth, sustainable for business, finances as well as really important. Tell us a little bit more about that. I know this is maybe a conversation that's happening between farmers right now.
Patty Parsons - 18:01 - The system uses so much less power than a standard refrigerator compressor. It runs on a smaller cooler is, can run on 110 volts. The bigger cooler is on 220, um, such as yours. You have a 24,000 Btu air conditioner that will run on 220, but there's no part of the system that requires three-phase electric, like a standard refrigerator compressor. Um, and it's just cheap to use. Um, and like I said, you can have a backup hanging around, um, if your, if your air conditioner went down in October, it's very hard in a lot of parts of the country to buy a new air conditioner when it's chilly out, even though you may still be using it for your business. So, um, yeah, it's a great idea to have the same model on hand.
Patty Parsons - 18:55 - You can slide the chassis out of the frame, slide the new chassis into the frame, turn it on and you'll be chilling again in no time.
Kelly Perry - 18:55 - Really good.
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Kelly Perry - 20:10 - Well, those of you who are listening, I hope maybe that you're picking up on a little bit of this. Some of these things with CoooBots like some of the key points that she is sharing in terms of this innovation piece. Like there was a need, there was a problem and it was solved in a really unique and interesting way that was different than all competitors. And so it was a book. Maybe you've read it, Patricia, it's called Blue Ocean Strategy and it talks about how you can kind of create new markets and um, you know, not maybe be in direct direct competition with somebody else because it, it's a different, a different product meets a different group of consumers and I talk with florists a lot about, you know, there's this thing where it's like I have to do luxury weddings are like the money in Florida is where those really big weddings are and what I feel like is, is true. It is actually the opposite where it's like, well if we focus on this market that that really isn't being served. Like for me as a florist like that traditional refrigeration, not, not an option.
Kelly Perry - 21:12 - Like it would have taken me such a long time to be able to save, to be able to have something like that installed. And even then it's like, well how is, how am I going to pay back that investment? Like my investment would have taken ages to pay back, you know, in product loss because what's my biggest risk? Like losing a little bit of product at the end of the day without refrigeration, but this is something that has just like overcome so many of those objectives and different things like that. So I just really encourage you, if you feel like you've got a heart for innovation and you're listening, like, um, see how, see how this plays out in real life and how you can apply this to your business in life and, and that maybe your market with flowers is, isn't an area that doesn't even really being served yet. Um, maybe, maybe it's more mass market than you've ever imagined it to be in new systemized for that.
Kelly Perry - 22:02 - And so I just wanted to point that out too because I just feel like you guys are such champions in that creative way of thinking that can be applied to a lot of different dreams and ideas. And you're such a, a leader and an example of what can be accomplished whenever we see a problem and go out to solve it in a really unique and interesting way. I just love it. I think that that's. I love your story and in this whole, um, this whole process and what you've offered to so many people that you didn't even know, like with us, you didn't even know that we, we could be affected by her, that, that could be a market, that, that could be viable or, or, you know, whatever, but it just, I feel so grateful and just on behalf of the rural community, so thankful that you, um, that you guys moved forward and that you figured it out and that you brought something to all of us that, that is really special. So thank you so much for doing that, Patty, and for being a part of it.
Patty Parsons - 23:03 - Well, you're welcome. And we were as surprised as you are. Um, we, we were just taking it one CoolBot at a time,
Kelly Perry - 23:03 - one, love that
Patty Parsons - 23:13 - we spoke to every single customer at first and we wound up selling CoolBots to groups of people that we didn't know what even need it. Um, we had thought of homes with wine cellars, but brewers and craft breweries, we hadn't thought of that. Um, mortuaries. I'm in the Midwest. There's a big, there's a lot of people who do show cattle and the cattle like to be cooler so they grow things. So, um, yeah, a lot of four h groups are doing that and using the CoolBot. Um, seafood and mushrooms and mushrooms are great because they like it. Um, more more humid, so the robot is perfect for them.
Patty Parsons - 24:11 - We have a CoolBots on oyster boats and um, and uh, people keeping their coolers at just perfect 45 degrees for for crabs. They don't like it too cold. They don't like it too warm and the CoolBot is just perfect for that.
Kelly Perry - 24:28 - Oh Patty, I love this. This is so inspiring. It's so inspirational. Like all those, all those people in industries that it's touched. Is there any, are there any new things coming down the pike for CoolBot that you want to let everybody know about?
Patty Parsons - 24:44 - Well, we have just started, uh, selling walk in coolers. We are really excited about it.
Kelly Perry - 24:51 - Oh cool. Tell us more about that.
Patty Parsons - 24:52 - Coolers that we're selling are completely self contained. They're designed with a window for the air conditioner. We sell them with the proper air conditioner for that size cooler, and it's a camlock construction. It's, um, it takes two people to put them together because the panels are big, but two people can put a cooler together, a small cooler in an hour, a big cooler showers, and you can have a standard R29 walk in cooler with a very solid door. And this is all the, um, it's called Acrylume. The material. It's, it's a galvanized aluminum with a coating so you can just wipe it down with a damp cloth to clean it. Um, they're really, really nice beautiful coolers and we've been having great success with that. And they are very economical because they're so tightly constructed.
Patty Parsons - 25:52 - And um, yeah, our, our customers are absolutely loving these.
Kelly Perry - 25:57 - I'm so glad to know about that, that I did not. I didn't know you guys were doing that. So off to keep that in mind. If somebody asks and if I happen to know a crab catcher, you know, because I wouldn't have known that a CoolBot would be helpful for crab catcher.
Patty Parsons - 26:13 - I wouldn't have known it until recently myself.
Kelly Perry - 26:16 - That's so funny. Well, I will, I, something that I perhaps might be a question of somebody listening that I've just thought of is how cool to keep your cooler for flowers and you know, debates out on that. My personal preference, I really like it at that kind of 45 range that you were talking about, but depending on if you're a flower shop or they're just coming and going. I feel like any kind of just bringing the temperature down is. But I lose a little bit of sleep at night if I feel like that maybe my flowers might freeze in some way or just get a little bit too chilly. And sunflowers don't like to be in a cooler like Basil and Zinnias don't really love being in a cooler either. But um, yeah, I just thought I'd mentioned that I, I usually keep mine at about 45 and you can bring, they can tolerate it a little bit colder, but that's kind of where I like. Do you have any feedback or thoughts on that, Patty from experiences that you've had or is that just sort of a matter of preference?
Patty Parsons - 27:13 - It's totally matter of preference. Some people like it a little bit cooler, some people want to push them all the way down to 35 or 36 degrees and I think it depends on what kind of flowers also. And same thing with um, with farms, berries like it cold, um, but uh, some other vegetables like it more in the 40 to 45 degree range. It's completely a personal choice and you can change the temperature on the CoolBot just simply by tapping the button. It's very simple. So whatever your choice is, you can make it as cold or as warm as you want.
Kelly Perry - 27:52 - What is the temperature range on it? How, how is, how cold can it get?
Patty Parsons - 27:58 - You can set it as cold as 33 or as warm up to 65 degrees. Yeah. For. So, for, to get down to those real cold temperatures, we oversize the air conditioner a little bit and you have to have awesome insulation
Kelly Perry - 28:13 - to get it real, real cold goddess. Um, do you have any. Is there anything that you guys offer to sort of monitor the temperature from afar yet? Do you have any.
Patty Parsons - 28:25 - Oh, stay tuned because we are working on something there. Yes.
Kelly Perry - 28:30 - Okay. Okay, good. Yeah, because that's one thing, like I think we have some sort of. Jesse has it set up somehow with like uh, you know, some, there's something out there that will read it and tell us, but it would be really neat if it was kind of like all in one system, um, because that is something that when I first got a cooler I would just lose sleep at night. I had heard horror stories from florists where it's like I had $3,000 of garden roses in the cooler for this wedding that was happening. And they all. So that was something that I lost a lot of. Yeah, that was something that I kind of lost a little bit of sleep over until I got used to it and that's probably why I'm like, only 45, no cooler than 45. Um, but anyway, that's so cool to know that that might be coming down the pike here in a little bit too. I think that'll really help people just to be able to have like an alert or something like that would be even better. So that's so cool. You guys are always on top of it and moving ahead and so fun to see. Well, what.
Kelly Perry - 29:27 - Thank you so much for being here today. It's been great to chat with you and I'm inspiring to hear your story.
Patty Parsons - 29:35 - Oh, thank you for having me, Kelly. It's a pleasure to be able to talk about it.
Kelly Perry - 29:39 - Yeah, absolutely. And you guys have any questions about the CoolBot you can just pop over to the blog. We'll make sure that all their information is linked there where you can get the, you know, different videos and stories. If you're thinking about how to solve your refrigeration needs and you're wanting to figure out how to get that put together, we'll link everything over there if you have any questions, and as always, I'm Patty and all of listeners, thank you for the work that you do. It's important and we appreciate it and we're happy to be a big team that's all working on loving the world through flowers so everybody have an awesome week and I'm wishing you the best. Until next time,
Patty Parsons - 30:21 - thank you Kelly.
Kelly Perry - 30:23 - Alright, bye everyone. As we sign off today, I want to remind you that your work with flowers matters. It's about more than the blooms. You're loving the world. You make magic happen. You're creating memories. You're following a dream, delivering light and grace here at Team Flower. We're cheering you on one bloom at a time. Thank you for listening to the podcast and until next time, remember that we're so thankful for each bucket that you wash in each bag of garbage that you take out of your studio that makes all of this possible. If you're looking for more floral education, that's free conversation or inspiration. Just visit teamflower.org/free to see the library of helpful videos and articles for Flores growers and flower business owners. You'll find helpful tips on everything from creating flower walls to hiring freelancers and much, much more.