Published On: Tue, Aug 2nd, 2011

Life Change: Closing a Business, Launching a New One

“I was in construction all my life, and had weathered recessions before,” says Mark Rath, 57,

whose company sold architectural form in the form of columns, windowsills and other sculpted forms. “The recent recession wiped us out, and I vowed that feast or famine I would never work in construction again.”

Closing One Business, Opening Another

His new venture, promoting pet safety particularly from fires, was inspired by his two sons, both firefighters and his two Chinese crested dogs. “Those dogs mean everything to us,” Rath says. “They’re like our new kids. My wife came up with a neat idea to protect them, and other pets. We live in a Spanish house built in 1926, with no way out from the second floor. We had the fire department come and teach us how to make it safer. We realized that a plaque letting first responders know you have pets would be a great thing.” Seventy percent of Americans don’t have an escape plan in case of a fire, flood or hurricane, so Rath knew the market was big.

Art That Saves Lives

“Pet stickers for your windows are ugly. Our plaque is nice looking and permanent. It’s a piece of art that serves a purpose,” Rath says. The plaques are plastic with a metal plating that makes them look like bronze. Rath was determined to find a manufacturer here in the States so he proudly call them “made in America.” In the end, he had to find not one maker but three. An outfit in Florida does the injection molding, then the plaques are sent to Bayshore, New York, for the first plating, then to Galva, Illinois for the final finishing. “I didn’t want to piece out the work this way, but the plaque is beautiful and it’s still affordable.”

Finding the Market

Rath is discovering that selling through his Bo Regards website is the way to go. “We have a hard time getting into the big-box pet stores because we have to charge more for a U.S.-made product.” (The plaques are $34.95.) They shipped their first plaques to customers in January. Now, Rath is planning a new plaque showing a cat rather than a dog, and looking at how to use recycled materials.

Best of all, his new company has broadened his outlook on the future. “This experience has opened my eyes. There’s a ton of stuff I can come do. Okay, I’m unemployed, but I can make something and sell it.”


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