Propane delivery service niches itself in restaurant market

December 11, 2015 By    
Mike Dodd, left, and Peter Samuelson started Propane Ninja as a cylinder delivery service.

Mike Dodd, left, and Peter Samuelson started Propane Ninja as a cylinder delivery service. Photo: Garrett Mallekoote of Muzzlebrake Media

Like ninjas, Propane Ninja emerged swiftly in the propane industry two years ago.

Mike Dodd and Peter Samuelson, co-owners of the company, had no experience in the propane industry as they launched their propane cylinder delivery service in Bradenton, Fla. But they both had entrepreneurial experience. The two realized there was a need for propane cylinder delivery services to heat restaurant patios in the fall, winter and spring in western Florida.

“There weren’t many companies providing propane cylinders to restaurants in our area,” Dodd says.

Dodd and Samuelson only had a few propane tanks, a state license and a pickup truck when they launched their business in 2013. With cylinder deliveries being Propane Ninja’s sole focus, Dodd says the company needed to partner with local propane retailers to refill the cylinders.

The two men partnered with Detweiler’s Propane and Bradenton Propane, two western Florida retailers. Both retailers readily accepted Propane Ninja as a partner.

Billy McPhillips, president of Bradenton Propane, describes Dodd and Samuelson as “enthusiastic propane hustlers” based on his first interactions with them.

“They had some great ideas when they approached me to partner with them,” McPhillips says. “It was neat to see brand new folks in our industry with a new idea and energy to grow it. Like all new folks, they had some ideas that I thought were not wise, but they listened to the advice we had for them. More than anything, it was refreshing to see them picking up this new marketplace.”

The partnership helps Bradenton Propane and Detweiler’s Propane, as well, because Propane Ninja refers customers to the propane retailers for residential service.

As a smaller service company, Propane Ninja’s launch required strategic branding. Dodd says creating a witty company name and logo required significant time and finances, but he says their efforts paid off.

“A logo, a slogan and good color scheme gets you headed in the right direction,” Dodd says. “We worked hard on our brand. Even though I don’t have a metric to tell how much our branding has helped us, I know our brand has caught on. I tell one person our company name and they always remember it, which is huge in the propane industry.”

Propane Ninja focuses on its website and social media to build its brand. Dodd says generating a buzz on social media and encouraging customer reviews online is key. He says online reviews help validate the business, creating awareness for other potential customers in the community.

The two entrepreneurs have considered other avenues to grow the business. This summer, Propane Ninja added a “Ninja Cooling” division to keep business strong in the summer months.

While Propane Ninja gets a lot of business in the restaurant and hospitality markets, Dodd hopes to see the company expand to other markets in the future. He says the team might find some opportunities in the forklift market in the next couple of years.

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About the Author:

Megan Smalley was an associate editor at LP Gas magazine.

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