What do they do there anyway? – Thermacell

May 17, 2023

Do you ever drive around town and see a sign for a business or something else and ask yourself, “I wonder what they do there?” Some businesses are pretty obvious – Sunoco Gas, CVS, etc… – got it. Cambridge Savings Bank, got it. But what about some of the others?

Our mission is to answer the question – What do they do there anyway?

Next up – Thermacell at 32 Crosby Drive

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Bedford has a lot of wetlands, and as goes with the territory it also has been known to have a lot of mosquitos.  Did you know there is a company right here in town that exists to help mitigate mosquitos? Thermacell is a global consumer company whose mission is to keep mosquitoes away from people.  Their website states:

Over the past 20 years, Thermacell’s mission has always been to liberate people who love the outdoors from the harmful effects of insects

LIVSMART MOSQUITO REPELLENT SYSTEM

They have a product line of Mosquito Repellers. It’s a small tabletop rechargeable device that creates a “zone of protection.” It’s like an invisible force field. Think Star Trek,  when they raise their shields. Instead of shielding you from Klingons, the shield is keeping you safe from mosquitoes.   Their reviews are off the charts. TIME magazine just named it one of the Best Inventions of 2022 for their newest product.

Mosquitoes have always been an annoyance and a very real danger with mosquito-borne diseases, Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE), West Nile, and others. The solution has always been to apply a stinky, sticky spray with DEET to your skin, or to go over the top and do a massive spray of your yard, killing both mosquitoes and other insects, including pollinators. I know I personally always make a risk-benefit assessment before I use bug spray, I really hate applying it.  Thermacell’s repellers create a mosquito safe zone for you and your immediate surroundings.

Thermacell’s  newest product creates an invisible mesh network to protect up to 20 feet. You can overlap them to protect a large area. For those who are familiar with the Sonos music systems, it’s  kind of like that but for mosquito protection.

So how did it all start?

Ashley Larochelle, VP of People & Culture, says they have been in Bedford from their inception back in 2001. Thermacell was the brainchild of a local inventor, Bill Schawbel. 

From the Thermacell Website:

In the 1970s, Schawbel was senior executive in a large consumer products company, Gillette. Bill was an entrepreneur at heart who had a passion for his work and a willingness to take risks. In 1981, Bill took a leap and bought a portion of the Gillette company that produced appliances and personal care devices to run as his own.

Bill Schawbel and his team imagined a power source that would set people free to use powered devices wherever and whenever they wanted. In the era before lithium-ion batteries, most consumer appliances needed a power cord. The solution was a portable, heat-based energy source. This innovation became the Thermacell Fuel Cartridge, utilizing butane to power a range of new cordless products.

From hair curlers to glue guns, soldering irons to baby bottle warmers, Bill’s team brought countless Fuel Powered cordless devices to market. And that did not escape the attention of another big consumer products company, SC Johnson, who turned to Bill to solve a major problem: fighting the mosquitoes that plague us all.

For four years, Bill and his development team, led by Jim Bonnema, worked with SC Johnson to perfect a heat activated mosquito repellent device. One-by-one, challenges emerged, and one-by-one, Bill and his team overcame them.

After four long years, Bill was ready to launch his product. SC Johnson wanted to delay for additional rounds of market research. So, he once again made the bold decision that he and his team would go at it alone, launching his product under the Thermacell name.

Soon after that, the Thermacell Mosquito Repeller hit the market in 1999.

A MOSQUITO FIGHTING REVOLUTION BEGINS 

A portable, heat-activated repellent that was silent, scent-free, and invisible soon became a must have item for outdoor adventurers. Thermacell technology uses an innovative ignition and combustion system to disperse the highly effective repellent, creating up to a 20-foot zone of mosquito protection. But campsites and the backwoods were only the beginning. Soon, homeowners found Thermacell, and on warm summer evenings, families across America discovered that they could put the sprays and lotions away.

The company has sustained rapid growth during the past seven years, enabling the business to expand into new products and distribution channels. Ashley says, “There really isn’t a competitor for this exact type of mosquito control. Other companies have tried, but failed to get the same results.”  

There are serious advantages to this approach, namely, you are only impacting the mosquitos when and where you are. A blanket spraying of an insecticide kills everything so you can enjoy an hour or so outside when the weather is nice. The Thermacell targeted approach makes much more sense from an ecological point of view. You use it when you need it, and only when and where you need it.   

“Instead of killing the mosquitos, you are just keeping them away from where you’re at. It is completely safe for your family and your pets when used properly,” she said. 

She said that the pandemic was actually good for their business. “People were told to gather outside during the pandemic, unfortunately, the mosquitos were still there.” 

In 2020 and 2021, they hired 50 people, going from 40 to 95. They currently have grown to 135 people on their staff with 56 in the Bedford headquarters.

Thermacell also gives back to the community. Last year they did a fundraiser with Big City Mountaineers (BCM), which is committed to providing transformative experiences through nature that strengthen life skills and build community for youth from disinvested communities. Last year, Thermacell helped raise $60,000 for this organization.

Ashley goes on to say it is a really nice work environment. Looking at the reviews on LinkedIn and Glassdoor, her statement is confirmed. It’s also a very dog friendly company. They have one of the only corporate websites seen that has a page dedicated to The Dogs of Thermacell.

Ashley says they are looking to be more involved in the Bedford community. Currently, Finland has the highest per capita usage of their Thermacell products. Her hope and goal is to make Bedford the highest per capita town in the USA. Bedford certainly have the mosquitos to make it happen.

Do you know of other interesting companies around town? Let us know.

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