Forget the typical one-size-fits-all dog leash: Katrina Boldry's homegrown company finds its niche with innovative handcrafted products suitable for dogs of all kinds.
"There's a huge gap between what pet owners and dog trainers really need, and what's available in stores and online," says Boldry, the owner and designer behind Bold Lead Designs.
Boldry raised a guide dog when she was a high-school student, and he came with a special leash. "After using the leash for 17 years with my own pet dogs, it needed to be replaced," she recalls. When she couldn't find a suitable stand-in, Boldry decided to make her own in 2006.
"I sourced some leather and fine quality hardware, and made the perfect leash," she says. Everybody who saw it wanted one.
A portrait and wedding photographer by trade, Boldry was working in the nonprofit sector -- at art museums, mostly -- when she started up a small business out of her house, manufacturing dog leash designs that weren't available on the shelf.
"At first," Boldry says, "I focused exclusively on good quality leashes." She still uses 100 percent American hides for her tanned leather because it is "the best leather I can find." American leather, she continues, "is increasingly harder to come by, and increasingly more expensive -- but absolutely worth it for the quality."
The company uses durable hardware: solid or plated solid brass instead of zinc or nickel. "None of that cheap stuff that rusts out," she says.
It follows that Bold Lead products last for decades, and they've got the lifetime warranty to prove it. "Beauty is not our first concern," Boldry says. "But that's a nice side effect."
The products are for all pet owners and dog handlers -- but the company has earned a reputation for its accessibility products, including its keystone mobility support harness that gives people with disabilities more independence.
"We have a couple of standard wheelchair leashes, but we really like to custom design them for individuals and their dogs because everybody's needs are so different," Boldry says.
Her marketing strategy has been largely grassroots thus far, and involves attending local craft shows and fundraising events for dog shelters; Boldry also does volunteer work with service dog organizations.
Bold Lead Designs does most of its business online, through direct-to-consumer sales, and the company has an international presence with clients in all fifty states and nearly thirty countries. "We do wholesale to some pet shop boutiques, including Chewy's in Lowry," adds Boldry.
On Dec. 3, Boldry's company will be recognized as an awardee for the 2015 City of Aurora Business Recognition Awards. Boldry was also named one of Pet Age's 2015 40 Under 40, and she has nabbed Colorado Lending Source's Small Business Excellence Award.
Challenges: After flying solo and working out of her basement for five years, Boldry hired a few employees and moved into a small commercial space. Last April, she purchased a building in Aurora, and now Boldry says she's "experiencing all of the challenges that go with moving into a bigger space.
"Keeping up with the demand has historically been this company's challenge," she adds.
Opportunities: "Private labeling is something we're really looking to get into," says Boldry. Eventually, she'd like to produce a product line for another business, such as a design shop or a home goods boutique.
Needs: With her new digs, Boldry is "ready to move forward and actively seek out new customers through marketing and advertising," she says, noting that she's looking for "somebody with a really solid marketing strategy."