I woke up to the sound of the alarm blaring loudly at 2 AM, taking a moment to realize where I was. My dog, Amie, was sleeping in my arms after several weeks apart while I was in Cameroon, West Africa. I had served there for 2 years as a Peace Corps Volunteer and had returned to work with Cameroonian seamstresses to produce our first batch of fair trade lingerie, and I had just arrived home to Dallas the previous night. Without putting on any clothes, I quickly jumped up to explore what sounded like crackling. I reached the living room to find an end table fully engulfed in flames, coming from within the heater, under a vent within the floor. I grabbed the first thing I could see, which was a corn bag, and began to hit the floor with it. It just made more sparks fly and the flames began to feel hotter. I grabbed Amie and tossed her outside, then began to try to put the fire out again, without any success, so I frantically called 911. I remember screaming and I’m not sure the operator could even understand me at first. She reassured me that firefighters were on their way, and in the growing flames within the house, I ran outside to warn my next door neighbors. Before leaving the house, I grabbed several handfuls of lingerie and threw them out into the front yard, and then wrapped a corn bag around myself, getting some minor burns on my arms in the process. Though, I didn’t feel it at the time as I was in such shock. I remember holding Amie in my arms, devastated, sitting on the ground wearing nothing but a corn bag. I prayed, cried and begged that my house- and my dream to help thousands of women in Africa- weren’t going up in flames.

That day was unforgettably traumatic and left a profound impact on me. To this day, I don’t do candles nor do I allow my friends to go without changing their smoke detector batteries when they are beeping. That annoyance, and 3 separate people who reminded and urged my then-fiancé Ryan to change the batteries, are responsible for saving my life.

Last September, after much research, my husband and I realized that there weren’t any safe, functional ashtrays with a clearing spike on the market; and those that existed featured either sharp spikes or plastic, flammable material. When I read the reviews and stories regarding how those ashtrays were starting house fires, we knew that we needed to design an alternative spike ashtray that would be heat resistant and functional. Thinking of what we wanted to use in our everyday lives, we wanted to make sure that our product would be solid and functional, without the danger of a sharp spike or cheap, flammable material. We solved these problems by making our product out of solid, heat resistant, flexible, FDA approved silicone. Angel took it to the next level by addressing another issue we noticed: We needed a place to set our pipes before and after each smoking session, to avoid pipes breaking and spilling the precious herb. He added four pipe-sized grooves, which serve as places to rest cigarettes and cigars as well.

As we brought our idea to life, I realized a new dream was rising from the ashes of an old one. It has become our mission to help other smoking enthusiasts enhance the quality (and safety) of their experience. We are excited to bring The D’ash Bowl to market; If we can prevent even just one more person from experiencing the tragedy that I survived, then our last six months of hard work, sweat, tears, and investment would be totally and completely worth it.