One day when Evan Purcell was out on a run with his dog, Bodhi, he suddenly realized he'd forgotten to bring waste bags just as Bodhi assumed the position on the trail.
"No, Bo!" Purcell yelled, urging the pup not to lay a landmine for whoever was unfortunate enough to come across it next.
This was the moment Purcell realized he needed a better solution to help him remember to bring waste bags, and one that wasn't too bulky to carry while running. The epiphany eventually led to the development of the flagship product for his Spokane-based startup company NOBO Pets: A dog leash that doubles as a waste bag carrier. The name is a homage to Purcell's lament at Bodhi's business that day.
"I got back home from the run and thought that there had to be something out there," he says. "All of the things I saw on the market didn't really fit the bill."
While Purcell didn't see what he wanted, he's a mechanical engineer with experience in product design. So he set out to create his own solution.
"This is something I can design and build for myself," he says. "At that time, I never came to the thought of making a business for it. I just wanted something that I needed."
Similar dog waste bag holders are in the form of a container or bag attached near the leash handle loop, whereas Purcell's design features a bag dispenser built into a lighter and more ergonomic handle. Because of this, dog owners don't have to worry about waste bags dangling about, making the leash more optimal for active escapades in the outdoors. As Purcell went out with his new custom design, other dog owners started to pay attention.
In addition to the sleekly integrated poop bag dispenser, NOBO's heavy-duty, rope-like leash has a quick-release feature in the handle so owners can securely tether their pup to a stationary object, as well as a secure screw-lock carabiner to attach to a collar.
Sensing a demand for his product, Purcell took the idea to crowdfunding platform Kickstarter. After seeking funding for his design in October 2019, he tripled his $10,000 goal, going on to launch sales this May in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. Customers can now shop online at nobopets.com.
For the team at NOBO, the unique situation of COVID-19 hasn't done much to impede company growth. According to Purcell, current pandemic trends are actually beneficial to e-commerce ventures, as consumers favor ordering products online over brick-and-mortar retail.
"There has been some challenge in terms of logistics and manufacturing, but it's a great time to get into the pet space," he says. "People are getting outside with their pet."
As NOBO sells more leashes, Purcell notes the company also hopes to leave a positive impact on the environment, not only by helping waste bags become more convenient for owners to bring along, but also making the waste bags themselves biodegradable.
"We want to own our backyard here in Spokane and Coeur d'Alene," Purcell says. "We're extremely passionate about the outdoors and the wilderness."
For the future of NOBO, Purcell intends on eventually becoming a subscription-based company for biodegradable pet products such as waste bags. Until then, NOBO plans to continue selling its flagship product, which all began with Bodhi doing his business on that fateful day. ♦