Friday, May 24, 2024

An elegant leash: Harnessing your business ideas

by Scott Bilker
Scott Bilker Scott Bilker is the founder of and author of the best-selling books, Talk Your Way Out of Credit Card DebtCredit Card and Debt Management, and How to be more Credit Card and Debt Smart. Receive the 5-Year Loan Spreadsheet when you subscribe to his email newsletter.

I met Lisa Flynn at a vendor fair at Popcorn Park Zoo and was immediately struck by her product and passion. She has invented a simple and elegant dog leash that is sure to be a great business success–plus make walking more comfortable for human and dog alike. I asked if she would share her experience in getting her ideas from the drawing board to the marketplace. Her answers to my questions below may help guide you in developing the awesome ideas that I’m sure you have too!

What inspired you to invent the Harness Lead?

I was a volunteer dog walker at an animal shelter for four years. In the shelter I preferred to use harnesses on the dogs, but it was a challenge to have on hand enough harnesses to fit the various breeds and sizes of dogs that came in and out on a weekly basis.

One particular pit bull, named Buddha, inspired this leash. He was very high energy and extremely difficult to get a harness on due to him being confined to his kennel and only getting a very small amount of daily exercise. Because he was so excited to be getting out of his kennel, it was impossible for him to stay still enough to get a harness on. I had to resort to using a slip lead that goes on very quickly and forms a collar around the neck. Easy to get on, but very difficult to walk him with. He would pull very hard and choke and gag himself, which made it a very unpleasant walk for both of us. Finally, after a particularly bad day of Buddha choking himself, on my way home from the shelter I decided I was going to make him a leash that would not choke him.

Wrapping the leash is a common practice for animal shelters, kennels, dog trainers to use as a tactic to slow a dog down from pulling. They will take a leash that is clipped to a collar and wrap the leash under the dog’s body to reduce the dog’s pulling. This leash wrapping technique serves the purpose, but the pressure is still being directed around the neck area. I took the wrapping leash concept and the slip lead concept and married the two, to form a leash that would fit any size dog, fit on the body in harness form and have the same impact as the leash wrapping technique where it tightens around the midsection to reduce the urge to pull. Hence the birth of Harness Lead.

Is Harness Lead your full time job?

Harness Lead is a new business that I have recently launched, but I continue to work full time for the past 13 years as a Real Estate Agent for Jersey Realty, Ship Bottom, NJ.

How did you find your manufacturer?

I went online and googled “dog leash manufacturers” and “polypropolene rope manufacturers.” It was a lengthy and difficult task finding a manufacturer to take on this job. I eventually went with a poly rope manufacturer out of CA.

What are you doing to market your idea?

I have been personally emailing retail stores, doggie daycares, kennels, and professional dog walking sites. I have hit the pavement in NYC with leashes in a backpack and visited various retail stores, which some have purchased and some are in the process of doing testing.

I have mailed out a number of free leashes to animal shelters, retail stores, doggie daycares as samples to try. I have a website and Facebook page which gets a lot of activity.

Where are you selling it?

I sell it online and I have it in 11 retail locations at this time all listed on the Harness lead webiste.

How did you get it into stores?

I have emailed many retail locations and sent free samples. I will also be attending the HHBacker Christmas Pet Industry Trade Show next month in Chicago IL. Oct 12-14.

How are sales going?

I have had HL for sale for about one and half months now and have sold roughly 150 leashes. I have given away a fair number as samples to get the product out there and in use. When the leash is in use, it sells itself!

How has your website been in helping with your marketing?

It is linked to my Facebook page, which is growing in numbers daily. The beautiful product photos on the website were all taken by Michael Bagley Photography. These stunning photos show the product in its best light and have brought much positive attention to Harness Lead.

Louise Denecke of ARF films, did the instructional video with HL spokesdog, which is an important tool in showing the ease and usefulness of this product.

How has your Facebook page helped with marketing and sales?

Facebook has been a very useful tool in that it is an easy and convenient place for folks to post testimonials on the product. It is an electronic word of mouth if you will. It is an invaluable tool for spreading the word about the experiences of others and making folks feel comfortable to order and try this product for themselves. I can display photos of the leash in action and show all the different breeds and sizes the leash can accommodate.

Do you have a patent for the leash?

I have filed for a patent on this leash, so currently it is patent pending. It takes two years for the U.S. Government to review the patent applications. In the meantime I am free to manufacture, market and sell the leash. Most companies will respect the patent pending status. As I understand it, once I receive the patent, from the date of my filing, I would be owed the profits of any company that copied the idea.

What advice do you have for people in pursuing their ideas?

Stay positive, first and foremost. As they say in Silicon Valley, “Success comes to those who are the best at failing.” In other words, be thankful for your failures, in every failure there are lessons that hold the key to success!

Take a step each day that will have a positive impact. Don’t get overwhelmed by the task ahead. It will be an easier road traveled if you relax and enjoy the process.

And in the words of Bill Cosby: “I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failing is trying to please everybody.”