Success has not been an overnight story for Steven Paladino, though it may look like one. His firepit-music system company Music City Fire is having quite a moment — picked up by Costco, Lowe’s, Home Depot, Hayneedle and Wayfair, the systems are also available at Nashville Billiards.
The reality is Paladino started his business nearly five years ago after watching a YouTube video showing a physics experiment known as a Rubens’ Tube or a Pyro Board.
“You take essentially a square burner, or custom-make one, and you fill that box up with propane,” he says. “At the bottom of the box you have the speaker, and as a speaker vibrates, it forces the gas out of the top. I’ve always been big on physics, so I was aware of the product, but seeing it taken to such extreme on the video and seeing all the excitement behind it? I said ‘Okay, we’ve got to manufacture this.’”
He started down the path replicating that product, but he soon realized it would never be approved in its original state. After all, it was, essentially, a bomb.
“I could have just stopped right there, but instead I said, ‘We can go ahead and manufacture something that’s going to develop and produce the same results, but in a safer manner,’” he says. “In the long run it actually turned out to be a much better product.”
After multiple iterations and variations and versions of the product, he arrived at the sound-reactive model he has now.
“At the push of a button, it streams music from your phone or from your laptop or computer, and the fire can dance with the music,” he says. “Push the button again and you can have the fire and music completely independent of each other — you can have a regular fire and still have the audio system going.”
In his own backyard, Paladino has two synced together through Bluetooth. When he’s hanging out with his boys, 6 and 3, he can have the fire off but the music going.
“In this case it allows people to use it for so much more,” Paladino says. “We’re working on furthering the technology even more, using better amps and developing more speakers and doing software integration that’s really going to take it to the next level.”
A true entrepreneur, he does everything —website code, product photography, video editing and product designs.
“I’ve always been big into engineering, robotics and physics,” Paladino says. “As a kid I wanted to be a robotics engineer, to really take things apart and tinker and do things and learn how to solder and build things. I’ve been building my own computers for years, and it just kind of led into this.”
Plans for 2019 are ambitious, too, with the incorporation of Alexa integration capabilities, indoor units and a Nashville showroom collaboration with Rail Yard Studios.
“For me it’s just creating,” he says. “I just like doing different things, and I like challenges.”
While he has been rising professionally, personally his family has been facing heartache as his oldest son has been in and out of the hospital while they treat a brain tumor he was diagnosed with just after he turned 5. Paladino wishes more than anything to have his family all together, no hospitals. Without them, the success means nothing.
“I know plenty of people would have stumbled but it’s part of who I am. We have had our hard times, but we keep rolling. That is all there is to do.”