Fozzy Dog: Unleashing Creativity
BOISE, Idaho (KBOI) -- The blowtorch burns a peacock blue as it turns tiny rivets red hot.
It's all in a day's work for Boise inventor and entrepreneur Cuyler Binion, a California transplant who is on the cusp of realizing a dream.
He was out on a walk with his Portuguese water dog, a black bundle of nervous energy, and was frustrated with all the stuff he had to carry in his pants pockets.
Gosh, he thought, I wish I could make the dog do the work here.
"The leash had a small area," he explains. "I wondered if I could make something to fit in that triangle and hold all the stuff."
In other words, necessity was the mother of messy invention.
"I think I took a sports bag, got some staples, velcro, took apart the leash and I had made a very crude prototype."
A prototype that, four years later, is now the foundation of Boise-based Fozzy Dog Leash Company.
It's a deceptively simple concept: a stretchable pouch in the leash handle that can carry everything your pockets can't.
From pooches to pouches; the leap seemed not only logical but practical.
Taking a cardboard box from a high shelf, Cuyler is a bit shy to admit that he went through nearly a half-dozen iterations before he was even remotely satisfied that his invention had promise.
"One prototype," he says, "turned into 2, 3, 4."
And though he has a manufacturing background, producing the custom dog leash proved a challenge from the start.
"Two-by-four's clamped to my granite countertops," he chuckles. "And a blowtorch for making crme brulee heating up rivets. It was, uh, an ugly sight."
But that's all behind him now.
Thanks to his sister, Amy, Cuyler now has a two-person production line based in his garage.
Briefly alone, Amy reflects on watching her younger brother at play in their native Oklahoma.
"Now that I think about it," she says thoughtfully, "he was always tinkering, playing with Legos. For hours. And making things for his GI Joe guys."
Today, Cuyler's tinkering is paying off in a big way, but not without the fits and starts that bedevil any start-up.
"Oh yeah," says Amy, "there are days when only one of us can stand to be out here on the production floor. The other is banished to the office."
Between the two of them, the Binion siblings turn out about 20 leashes an hour. And the work can be tedious.
But quality is important to Cuyler.
"It's novel, it solves a problem, " he says proudly. "It's aesthetically pleasing, it's well-designed. It's not a bulky mess, which is important to us."
Then he demonstrates the process.
Cuyler cuts a five-foot length of sturdy, marine-gauge rope.
Then, using a locking device he helped design, he holds the rope against a heating element and it slices through the cord like a hot knife through butter.
"What you're left with," he says, holding the cauterized end, "is another perfect piece."
He reinforces the end and adds a nickel-plated shackle. And then ties the assembly with a finishing knot.
He places the opposite end in a mold and, using a blowtorch, heats tiny rivets that he lowers onto the rubber handle containing the stretchable pouch. The rivets melt in place.
Amy adds a few touches and--voila!--another Fozzy Dog leash is ready for shipment.
Cuyler says he had hopes of producing about a thousand leashes in a year. Already he has beaten that projection seven-fold.
And it makes you wonder how the two of them manage to beat the tedium of production.
He's good at making that, too. But admits there's been many a slip between the cup and the lip, figuratively speaking.
Rubbing his eyes, he says, "There's sleepless nights where I'll pop up and have an idea, grab a piece of paper and start drawing or sketching or writing ideas down. Sometimes, when I look at them in the morning, they make no sense whatsoever."
But that's the inventing game for you.
And the price you pay for unleashing creativity.