While anchored in Bora Bora’s crystalline blue lagoon on a boat named Natural Mystic in 2010, two Santa Barbara dudes — one a realtor-turned-entrepreneur in the middle of a sailing journey around the world, the other an engineer and tech whiz who likes to rock climb in his spare time — revisited an idea they had talked about on a hiking trip four years earlier: to merge metal and fire and create an inexpensive multi-tool for campers, partiers, and everyone else.
After sketching an admittedly “rough and ugly” concept model right there on the boat, Kyber Logue and Matt Dubberley eventually fine-tuned the device into LighterBro, a stainless steel lighter sleeve fitted with a fold-out knife (which doubles as a regular screwdriver), micro-phillips screwdriver (good for Mac products and sunglasses), and scissors (spring-loaded and surprisingly effective). Sized for standard Bic lighters, it also works as a bottle opener, and costs $9.99. “The product combines a lot of things that you use in everyday life,” Logue enthusiastically explained. “People are surprised it hadn’t been invented before.”
Much of the inspiration for LighterBro’s parts and pieces — and the philosophy behind recently formed LighterBro LLC, headquartered on Haley Street — came from CEO Logue’s five-year trip around the globe. Logue, who was born and raised in Santa Barbara and graduated from USC’s business school in 1998, said he saw so much plastic pollution on beaches and in the sea that he wanted to make something tough and reusable. Hence the corrosion resistant metal design with rivets instead of screws. And the tool choices came out of not only practicality when out on the ocean or in the woods but also the necessity of arm’s-reach convenience during the more leisurely moments of life.
“Throughout my travels, it seemed like the biggest commonality was drinking a beer, smoking a cigarette, sharing a story, and having a good time,” Logue said. “Obviously the product was designed with smoking and partying in mind. Without a doubt.” The name is a bit of a double entendre, he went on, as in the multi-tool is a lighter’s best bro and mimics the oft-heard request, “Can I borrow your lighter, bro?”
Packaged in bright Rasta colors meant to symbolize “unity” (of lighter and hardware) as well as “an ethos of ease and efficiency,” the LighterBro has been picked up by 140 retail locations — in outdoor stores, skate shops, gas stations, and so on — throughout the country since production began in November, said Logue, whose goal is to have it in 1,000 stores by the end of 2014. During the research-and-development phase, the biggest complaint was that product testers reported their LighterBros permanently borrowed by admiring friends.
Though the devices are manufactured overseas — Logue and Dubberley, who have thrown their savings and full-time work weeks into the new company, tried for over a year without success to find a place in the U.S. that’d do the work for a fair price in a reasonable amount of time — the pair have kept all other elements of the business local. John Lytle created their website, Craig Takashi spearheaded the logo and packaging, Cislo & Thomas LLP facilitated the patent process, M&J Engineering took care of prototype fabrication, and former Brooks student Dillon Mecure produced LighterBro’s first commercials. Dubberley, the company’s chief technical officer, worked for seven years for Google’s VP of engineering, and was the first employee of the Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network.