MANATEE -- Wesley Benham spends his days at Hancock Bank in east Bradenton as a banker working with manufacturing professionals. Finally, Benham decided he wanted to be a part of the action.
"I didn't want them to have all the fun," the Bradenton native said. Benham's mind is "always running with ideas" and he decided to use one to solve a problem he regularly encountered when walking Monte, his family's 13-year-old Shiba Inu.
"I got tired of carrying the stinky poop bag," Benham, 34, said. So he created a convenient leash attachment to carry the bag and soon realized other dog owners might like his invention. In the following year, Benham's friends tested his product, he made some changes and then finalized what is now sold under the name Poo Butler.
Poo Butler is a hook attachment designed to fit both standard and retractable leashes. When holding a loaded waste bag, the plastic hook is located on the leash about halfway between dog and owner. It is designed to "get it away from you," Benham said.
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Benham and his wife, Erica, 35, go on daily walks with Monte and their children; Kai, 7, and Lana, 6. The couple not only got tired of carrying the "stinky poop bag," but needed to be free to hold their children's hands.
Bradenton resident Jay Rosenzweig was at G.T. Bray park Tuesday morning with his therapy dog in training, an 11-week-old German shepherd named Rudi.
"It might be something I would look at," Rosenzweig said. "That way you keep your hands free."
Benham said his invention puts the dog walker in charge.
"We saw a niche and filled it," Benham said. "Every time we're in the car we see people holding on to those bags and it's like, 'who's the master?'"
Benham tried to source locally many of the materials for his project, he said. Rimer & Rimer Plas
tic Division in Bradenton provides the raw material needed for the hook and Benham chose Delaney Manufacturing of Sarasota for packaging.
"All other materials were sourced from the Tampa Bay area," Benham said. Poo Butler currently has its patent pending and trademarked. Benham estimates he's invested about $20,000. Timewise, he had to learn about patenting, trademarking, UPC coding and do other research, but, Benham said, he logged the most hours in the design process.
"The main thing was spending the time for the main design so it was consistent," Benham said.
The Benhams launched sales of Poo Butler in January. The leash attachment can be bought online or found at Nate's Place Retail & Adoption Center in University Park, Pets Plus in Parrish and both Crowder Brothers' Ace Hardware stores in Bradenton.
The couple said so far, they've received "great feedback" about the product.
Benham hopes to expand Poo Butler's reach to all pet stores in the Tampa Bay area and hopes eventually the product will sell nationwide. While he wants to expand the sales territory he plans to keep his focus on pet stores, instead of expanding to big-box retailers like Walmart.
"Pet stores seem to be the right fit," Benham said. "The people are intent on getting the best products for their pet."
Janelle O'Dea, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow her on Twitter @jayohday.