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C.J.: Nitey Leash lights the way for dog walkers after dark

September 21, 2018

Joseph Hassan created “the world’s first and only fully illuminated dog leash” with his friend Betty Gottfried because she was almost hit by a car with her dog while training at night in D.C. for the Marine Corps Marathon.

“Millions of people everyday walk their dogs either early in the morning or late at night, and cars can’t see them,” said Hassan. “We thought a dog leash, illuminated from end to end using fiber optics and LED technology, makes you and your dog stand out to traffic.”

When Hassan’s product caught my eye last month at Costco in St. Louis Park, it was hard to believe this kind of dog leash didn’t already exist. The company is based in Cleveland, Ohio, but Hassan came to Minnesota to test Nitey Leash with Costco members.

Hassan formerly worked as a communications guy for a NYC agency that interpreted scientific publications for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, and had a similar public health field job for a pharmaceutical company. But I think he’s about to make millions with Nitey Leash and without being on ABC’s “Shark Tank,” which has been nibbling around www.niteyleash.com.

Q: Why did you decide to first test Nitey Leash with Costco customers here?

A: It’s a place I go to discover new things. Then our team [was] looking for the best location in the Midwest. We visited several different cities, several different clubs and the building here in St. Louis Park was the perfect fit. Lots of great dog-friendly people, wonderful people. And a great team at [Costco], really welcoming.

Q: Why do ideas seem so simple but only after someone else runs with them?

A: Yeah, we hear: Why didn’t I think of that? That’s such a great idea! Almost everybody has an idea about something that frustrates them on a daily basis. It’s really important to follow through on them and for whatever reason a lot of us think, I can’t do that. I’m too busy. I don’t have the expertise. What I have found is that you can figure it out. You talk to friends, you talk to family and people who have expertise and you can do it.

Q: How long between coming up with the idea to holding a leash?

A: I would say about five years.

Q: Did you think about going on ABC’s “Shark Tank”?

A: Of course, we would LOVE to be on “Shark Tank.” Hopefully when they hear about us. Maybe now would be the time.

Q: I hear those “Sharks” like a big piece of the action? Does that give you pause?

A: We just want to get the word out; we’d love to get out there and spread the word more. We are open to discussing, I’ll leave it at that.

Q: O, the Oprah magazine, has heard about your product?

A: That’s right. They call this a smart gadget for your 21st-century pet. We sent a bunch to Oprah; her editors have used it. The piece ran in February of this year, which we were really excited about, absolutely. You know the response from folks we’ve been speaking to, the members at Costco, has been phenomenal. We’ve heard, Wow, I’ve been looking for something like this. I carry a flashlight at nighttime to stay safe. Cars go so quickly they don’t see me. We actually had this morning a really lovely woman who came back today. She said, I bought the leash yesterday, I used Nitey Leash for the first time last night and cars actually pulled over, and I feel so much safer now. We were thrilled.

Q: Did I hear the price dropped?

A: Costco negotiated a really amazing price for members. [It’s] $24.95 on our website and Amazon, but here at Costco it’s $14.69, a great value for Costco members.

Q: In what other ways are people using your illuminated leash?

A: We’ve heard of runners wrapping it around their waist at nighttime. We have heard of people using it on their cats, walking their cats at nighttime. Cyclists, anyone who is really afraid of themselves or loved one being hit by a car at nighttime.

Q: Is there a way to make leashes leashless to avoid getting entangled with your dog?

A: Interesting. I’ve never thought of that. There are leashes of different lengths. For our first version we went with a 5-foot version because we interviewed a lot of dog owners and the most common length requested was 5-feet. Maybe having a [5-foot] leash solves that.

C.J. can be reached at cj@startribune.com and seen on Fox 9’s “Buzz.” E-mailers, please state a subject; “Hello” does not count.

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