Ya gotta start somewhere. Amazon, Apple and Google, for example, are three of the biggest tech brand names around worth a collective $6 trillion.
But the world’s largest retailer began by selling books out of Jeff Bezos’ garage. Likewise, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak built the Apple I in Jobs’ parent’s garage. And Larry Page and Sergey Brin started their search engine, originally nicknamed “BackRub,” out of a friend’s garage.
Add Little Giant to those successful companies born in the same humble surroundings.
“R.M. ‘Doc’ Wolfe’s plumbing business was very well known in the Oklahoma City area,” Rob McConnell, Little Giant’s business unit director for P/HVAC and strategic distribution, told us recently on an Off the Cuff podcast to recount the company’s celebration of 80 years in business.
While the phrase “early adopter” might not have been in vogue in the 1920s, Wolfe was indeed one of the first installers and troubleshooters of air-conditioning equipment.
“At the time, air-conditioning units were just beginning to become popular, and each unit had a pump to get water up into a screen for evaporative cooling,” McConnell added. “And every time Wolfe fixed one of these pumps, it would break again.”
Wolfe enlisted the help of inventor Harry Goodman to dream up a solution: the world’s first evaporative pump.
“As a result in 1941, the Little Giant Vaporizer was born and so was the Little Giant brand,” McConnell says. “The two would meet at Doc’s house. Later on, they would start to manufacture the Vaporizer from Doc’s garage.”
That innovative pump became the cornerstone of Little Giant and laid the foundation for a company dedicated to solving the pumping problems faced by HVAC and plumbing professionals.
Beyond the Vaporizer
Solving those problems was a commitment that drove considerable innovation in those early years and continues to this day.
In 1950, for example, Goodman filed a patent for what was to become the Little Giant submersible water pump.
“This was actually an upgraded Vaporizer that could be used anywhere water recirculation was an issue both underwater and on dry land,” McConnell said. “The basic, self-contained electric motor-driven submersible pump featured an inlet filter with screen and a discharge for the first time.”
The product, a small low-pressure, high-volume pump, was used specifically for the recirculation of water for evaporative coolers, minnow tanks, home garden pools and fountains, light coolant oils for machine tools, laboratory uses and many other water transfer applications.
“This pump also paved the way for a wave of new product development in the decades to come,” McConnell added.
For example, the development of the C2 and C3 pumps in the 1950s signaled the company’s true entrance into the condensate tank pump business.
While product development in the early years was focused on problems for the HVAC trade, the company also turned its attention to solving problems for plumbers by introducing a line of sump pumps.
For example, the 1/3 HP 8 Series sump pump was the first to launch, appearing in the 1964 Little Giant catalog. A year later, Little Giant added the smaller ¼ HP 6 Series sump pump and a larger ½ HP 10 Series.
“While the market has evolved over the years,” McConnell added, “the iconic 6 Series continues to be a top-performing sump pump throughout the industry.”
And for good reason: measuring only 6 inches in height and using an internal diaphragm switch, this pump is ideal for shallow, small basin applications and produces 46 gpm at 5 feet of head while reaching a maximum shut-off of 18 feet.
“Whatever the application, 6 Series sump pumps are truly Little Giants when it comes to efficient residential and light commercial pump solutions,” McConnell said.
In 1980, the company and its more than 20 patents were sold to Tecumseh Products Co.
“During the 80s and 90s, innovation continued and the company released more options for sump, sewage, effluent, aquarium pumps, sewage basins, pool cover pumps and decorative outdoor living products for the landscaping industry,” McConnell added.
One big milestone at this time was the 1980 introduction of the 5-MSP (“Mini Sump Pump”) utility pump, aka the “Water Wizard.”
The Water Wizard served as an innovation bridge of sorts, connecting Little Giant’s development of small submersible pumps in the early years of the business with the heavy, cast-iron sump pumps that were next developed in the 1960s.
“The decades of experience building oil-filled, die-cast aluminum pumps since the 1940s allowed plenty of ingenuity and design expertise to be built into the 5-MSP,” McConnell explained. “In fact, it was the smallest pump of its kind when it was first introduced, and it still ranks among the most compact, powerful utility pumps on the market.”
Since launching more than 40 years ago, the 5-MSP has consistently been among the most successful pumps in the Little Giant lineup year after year, chiefly due to its extreme reliability and portable nature.
“If you’ve ever looked in the back of a plumber’s truck, odds are you’re going to find one of the 5-MSP pumps onboard,” McConnell added.
Little Giant continued to innovate and develop more condensate pumps, culminating with the introduction of the VCMA condensate pump in 1999.
“The creation of the VCMA series led to an entire next generation of Little Giant condensate pumps that are still being used today, including additional standard condensate removal pumps, low profile condensate removal pumps, plenum and high temperature pumps, in-pan condensate removal pumps, mini split pumps, and specialty pumps like evaporative cooler pumps and ice machine replacement pumps,” McConnell explained.
Grinder pumps hit the market in 2000, creating even more Little Giant solutions for wastewater and HVAC professionals.
Then in 2006, Franklin Electric acquired Little Giant, becoming a signature brand within the company’s portfolio.
Franklin Electric is a global leader in the production and marketing of systems and components for the movement of water and fuel. Recognized as a technical leader in its products and services, the company serves customers around the world in residential, commercial, agricultural, industrial, municipal and fueling applications.
“This partnership drove further innovation, and, over the years, Franklin Electric added to the brand’s talented team, reinforcing their commitment to product improvement, R&D and maintaining the level of quality Wolfe and Goodman built into their initial line of pumps,” McConnell said.
For 80 years, Little Giant has stood the test of time, pumping a steady flow of proven reliability and superior technical know-how both through the products themselves as well as the staff and support team behind the scenes.
“Little Giant is here to support our customers by making their jobs as easy as possible by providing them with the knowledge and resources they need to succeed,” McConnell added. “We know they’re the heroes out there day in and day out, and we’re proud to help with expert-level support and high quality, reliable products.”
Little Giant is well known as being the only company that produces condensate and cooler pump products for HVAC contractors and sump pumps for plumbing professionals in addition to boasting a strong pool, water garden and hydroponic product lines.
To celebrate the company’s 80th anniversary, Little Giant is rolling out a new brand look, feel, and promise to better reflect the company and its products.
This signifies a revitalized focus on the Little Giant brand from Franklin Electric, and provides distributors and contractors with the tools they need to succeed.
“The look may be new and refreshed, but the products are tried and true and benefit from 80 years of experience in innovation, manufacturing expertise, and technical support,” McConnell said. “We’re proud of where we’ve been and extremely excited about where we’re going.”
As the company’s new slogan goes, “Little Giant has pumped a lot of water in the past 80 years, and they’re looking forward to the next 80 and more.”
Visit littlegiant.com to learn more about the Little Giant brand and other ways the company is celebrating the 80th anniversary.
And if you haven’t listened to the podcast with McConnell, you can do so at bit.ly/3E46Ywb.