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All The Dirty Glass
If you use a glass rig, be it a bong, pipe, chillum, or a one-hitter, then you know the dread of cleaning your piece – gathering supplies, soaking, shaking, and scraping, the black globs on the sink, stinky fingers and sometimes a broken stem or piece, then having to clean your sink after you wash your bong? That’s more time you don’t get to spend doing the things you love.
Maybe you don’t even clean your bongs; you exile them to a bong graveyard or a cardboard box in the garage while you buy a new one.
Current Cleaning Quandary
This quandary has plagued humankind since The Dawn of the Bong Age (not the Bronze Age, but some bongs certainly were bronze). The current options are the tried-and-true rock salt and Iso (isopropyl alcohol), the liquid solutions that come in single-use plastic, and the magnet system, which is great for your OCD but, otherwise, largely a time suck. (Especially now that there’s an alternative that takes 15 minutes or less hands-free!).
Those are the problems Laura Costa was solving when she created CIRO, a cannabis consumer cleaning appliance, revolutionizing the cleaning experience with technology and thereby “giving you back your valuable time,” Costa explains.
CIRO’s Origin Story
When asked what inspired CIRO, Costa says, “Dirty bongs suck. Cleaning off resin was a puzzle worth solving,” given the many hassles involved (soaking, the liquids/chemicals, cost, plastic waste, mess, and most of all, the time). A farmer’s wife in the Emerald Triangle, Costa ran many a trim crew and was confronted with gummy scissors at the end of each day. Instead of soaking them in alcohol, as many do, she repurposed a jewelry cleaner. It worked well enough for immersing scissors, hand pipes, dab tools, and grinders in the short run but did not hold up to everyday use and wouldn’t work for a bong.
While leveraging her early life experience as an electrician and her natural inclination to invent things, Costa’s solution was to build her own sonic cleaner with hacked parts and a bunt cake pan for the housing! Later she tried a cookie tin and unused plumbing pipe before eventually working with a professional product designer for a housing that would look great and work for manufacturing.
So, what is CIRO?
CIRO is a circular, sonic countertop appliance that cleans cannabis accessories and is specially designed and tuned for bongs. “Properly tuned sonic energy creates ‘cavitation’ in which tiny bubbles are created, and in the case of CIRO, they shatter resins off the glass,” Costa shares. “Most sonic cleaners require that the piece being cleaned is submerged in water, but our novel design for cleaning bongs does not; it just needs the bong to be filled with water,” Costa concludes.
CIRO fits the base of most bongs (6″ diameter), while other types of glassware can be set inside a bowl or drinking glass filled with water. Using water as a conductor makes the soundwaves do the trick. Adding a bit of soap, such as the biodegradable tabs from CIRO, or a few drops of dishwashing soap emulsifies the resin for super easy cleanup.
Attracting a Team
Inventing a cool thing and getting it to market are two very different tasks. Costa had a functioning cleaner she had built home in her Humboldt County garage. But she had no idea what to do next. Enter Cara Cordoni, a native San Franciscan and entrepreneur with small business experience and a background including ten years in middle management for a Fortune 500 company. The two met in 2015 at the International Cannabis Business Conference in San Francisco, became fast friends, and have been nearly inseparable since. “Laura shared her invention with me early on,” pipes in Cordoni, “It took some time for the actual magnitude of the potential to sink in, and even then, I knew we needed business support.” So together, they started looking for the right person to help them build a business to manufacture a product, an area new to them both. Enter Jo Marini of Mother Superior, a venture incubator in San Francisco. Introduced by a mutual friend, they found that Jo’s mission to support founders in building socially and environmentally equitable businesses aligned with their own values. Minerva Minded, Social Purpose Corporation (SPC) was formed shortly thereafter, and CIRO was launched in 2020.
What Happened Next
Then COVID hit. The world shut down. Fundraising stalled, supply chain issues escalated, and inflation started to climb. Nonetheless, like so many businesses, the women used that time to their advantage: “We switched product designers, we dialed in the optimal frequency for shattering resin, and we refined the housing design,” explains Cordoni. “We’re most proud of identifying the biodegradable additive that will cause the housing to dissolve should it end up in the ocean or landfill instead of being returned for repair or replacement. Shouldn’t we always have a backup plan for Mama Earth?” Cordoni asks.
All along, Costa and Cordoni created from “cradle-to-cradle” and whole systems lenses: they considered both the source of their materials and the full life cycle of their product; what would happen if CIRO eventually broke? “We couldn’t imagine making a product that would end up in the landfill in a year or two or ten,” says Costa. Not only were they discouraged by the throw-away nature of single-use plastic packaging for bong-cleaning products, but they were also appalled by the actual environmental impact. Manufacturing those products uses large amounts of energy and precious water to create toxins and discarded plastics. “That’s how we decided to offer a lifetime warranty on CIRO,” explains Costa.
Costa and Cordoni also wanted to challenge stigma by adopting a sleek, simple design that blends in with other kitchen-countertop appliances. No more hiding! The one-button operation is simple and accessible for patients and elders with challenges to their dexterity. Cordoni chimes in that, “I use CIRO while doing household chores. So, I’m washing my dishes while CIRO is cleaning my bong in my kitchen. Or I’m cooking or talking to my mom. Hands-free and hassle-free are what the modern canna-mom like me has been waiting for.”
“What if CIRO could support small businesses and allow others to become entrepreneurs?” queries Costa. “I envision bong drop-off services, clean bong delivery, or mobile bong cleaning services. Or perhaps a glass shop, dispensary, or consumption lounge-based service using CIROs.”
For their part, Costa and Cordoni have bootstrapped their funding up to this point. The next step for CIRO is a crowdfunding round on Indiegogo. “Crowdfunding is basically pre-ordering and allows us to prove that the cannabis community wants CIRO, which will give us better terms with larger investors for a loan or equity deal as we expand,” says Cordoni. “It’s not easy to get investment as a women-owned, women-run technology business in the cannabis space, so we need to build a compelling case,” she concludes.
For all you early adopters, clean freaks, or regular bong and pipe users, this is your chance to back the latest Innovation in cannabis technology: A pledge of US$185 reserves one CIRO + accessories at 26% off the retail price of $250. In addition, multiple packs are available for dispensaries at a more generous discount. To see CIRO in action or to pre-purchase a unit in December or January, visit https://igg.me/at/cirocleaner.
Follow CIRO on Instagram: @ciro_humboldt
@caracordoni @ciro @pamelasquatch
Feature photo credit: Myles Moscato