If you can’t find it, create it: WVU student starts braked dog leash company

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WVU Statler College industrial engineering student Anthony Garber developed The Easy Leash, a dog leash similar to a standard retractable leash but with the added feature of a trigger actuated brake caliper that allows the user to gradually slow down the rate at which the leash reel rotates. (Submitted photo)

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – After West Virginia University student Anthony Garber’s friend’s dog accidentally received a hard pull on the neck from a retractable leash, Garber began searching the dog leash market for a product that wouldn’t yank so harshly. He couldn’t find a leash that fit his idea, so he began brainstorming.

That brainstorming led to The Easy Leash, a braked dog leash Garber is in the process of creating. Garber, a senior industrial engineering student in the Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources, explained that this leash functions similar to a standard bike brake.

“The leash I have created is similar in design to a standard retractable dog leash, but with the added feature of a trigger actuated brake caliper that allows the user to gradually slow down the rate at which the leash reel rotates,” Garber said.

A prototype that shows what The Easy Leash could look like. The product is still in development. (Submitted photo)

The Easy Leash gives the user more control over the rate at which the dog can move away from the leash by using a brake and trigger system similar to a bike brake. Garber said this reduces the hard impact felt when the dog’s momentum is transferred to the user.

Garber, a Pennsylvania native, has competed in business plan and pitch competitions to help gain the interest of investors and mentors. In April, Garber competed in the 15th annual West Virginia Statewide Collegiate Business Plan Competition.

The annual competition, which is hosted by the Encova Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship in the John Chambers College of Business and Economics at WVU, offers college students from around the state the opportunity to make a business idea come to life with the support of state institutions of higher education and seasoned business professionals from around the country. Garber received $2,500 for funding from the competition.

“Although I initially had a strong interest in pursuing this idea, I wasn’t necessarily expecting it to show as much promise as it has,” Garber said. “Competing in both business plan and pitch competitions easily played the largest role in helping gain the interest of investors and mentors and word of mouth should certainly not be underestimated.”

Garber is still in the process of developing The Easy Leash prototype but has high hopes that this project, which was once made to help his friend’s dog, will develop into a promising startup business.

So far, he said, he has raised about $4,700 dollars of the roughly $15,000 he’ll need to create a fully functioning prototype.

“My design right now is patent-pending,” Garber said. “And then I’m working on the minimum viable products right now with — I’m looking to outsource so there’s an engineering firm down in Georgia. But I’d say timeline between getting a fully functional prototype — once I can get the funding together, it would be about six weeks. But, as I said, I’m still trying to get the funding together to get everything full mechanical design completely worked out.”

Statler College industrial engineering student Anthony Garber developed The Easy Leash, a dog leash similar to a standard retractable leash but with the added feature of a trigger actuated brake caliper that allows the user to gradually slow down the rate at which the leash reel rotates. (Submitted photo)

Garber said his ultimate hope is to get his product into the hands of pet owners.

Everything, currently, on the market, he said, revolves around the same platform. Some products even offer an “auto-braking” system, but they create an “unpredictable situation”.

“And I’m really just trying to get this out there so that people can have more control and have more user-friendly devices to use with both their pets and with anybody that may have any little bit of a disability or any kind of back conditions, or it just gives the user more control.”

To any would-be engineers, tinkerers and inventors, Garber hopes to be an inspiration. He said if you see a problem and recognize that there could be a solution, you should take a leap of faith and pursue finding a solution.

“They can discover a problem and a simple solution to fix it, just investigate it and look into it and see how you can fix that problem,” he said. “Because, like I said, this is a really simple situation where I was like, ‘OK, I see that that’s an issue and I see that there’s nothing out there currently solving the problem, so what can I do about it?’. It’s really not as complicated as most people think it is, so if you have an idea, try to follow it up, go up and follow with it and see it through. See what you can make out of it.”

After graduation, Garber is considering becoming an industrial engineer for a company in the manufacturing industry while finishing the developing process for The Easy Leash part-time or committing to the company full time.

“I strive to ensure I see things through to the end, and although it includes significant risk, this company and idea are no exception to that. Either direction will allow me to utilize the knowledge I’ve gained and skills I’ve developed as an industrial engineer,” Garber said.

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