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Made-in-Erie dog toys offer a tail-wagging good time

Jon Meighan, the owner of Lake Erie Rubber and Manufacturing in Fairview, developed the toy with help from the Northwest Pennsylvania Innovation Beehive Network.

Jon Meighan toyed with the idea for a while.

He wanted his rubber manufacturing business, which usually fills orders for other companies, to develop a new product. It would be a first for the business he bought and consolidated into Lake Erie Rubber & Manufacturing, in Fairview Township, in August 2017.

“I was brand new and excited,” Meighan said. “I thought, ‘OK, well now’s the time to shake it up and try something different.’”

He landed on a product that the plant was already equipped to manufacture: a rubber dog toy.

The first toy, a medium-sized ball, recently hit the market under the brand name One Leg Up!. It’s available online, at https://1leguppets.com/, and will soon be for sale in some local pet stores.

The ball features a groove that can hold peanut butter or other treats for pups. The solid ball is made of a durable rubber material that’s light enough to float in water.

Meighan developed the ball with help from a number of local resources and businesses — and wound up with a product that is quintessentially Erie.

“We got help from a lot of different resources in the community, which I think made the product better than what we could have ever done on our own, and that’s part of why we put Erie, Pa. right on the front of it,” he said. “We want people to know where it came from.”

He tweaked the design by having it 3D printed at Penn State Behrend’s Innovation Commons, part of the Northwest Pennsylvania Innovation Beehive Network that also includes Mercyhurst University, Gannon University and Edinboro University of Pennsylvania.

“It was like having my own little design team,” Meighan said.

The prototypes Behrend students printed for Meighan helped him perfect the product’s design before he went through the expensive process of having a rubber mold made.

Jacob Marsh, industry relations coordinator at Behrend, said the beehive program helps reduce risk and cost for entrepreneurs who are developing new designs. Help from the Innovation Commons is free for clients like Meighan.

“What we enabled was for them to go after this product with very little risk to them,” Marsh said. “We potentially saved them from making a mold that would have had to be remade.”

Meighan also got free assistance from Edinboro University’s Center for Branding and Strategic Communication, another part of the Beehive Network. Edinboro students and faculty worked with Meighan to develop the cheeky One Leg Up! logo and the packaging for the dog toy.

The group worked with Meighan to brainstorm ideas for the brand name and logo, helping students gain experience working with an entrepreneur and add to their portfolios, said Brigette Davitt, the center’s creative director.

“Clients are people with opinions and problems to solve,” Davitt said. “It’s hard to recreate that in a traditional classroom setting.”

The center’s work on the marketing gave Meighan’s brand and packaging an unmistakable look.

“It really is a win-win,” Meighan said. “We have a fantastic-looking design ... that we couldn’t have done on our own and it gave them real-world experience.”

Meighan took the 3D printed prototypes of the ball to Peninsula Pups Doggie Daycare, on West 12th Street, where he tested them out on dogs to gauge what size would be best and to try out the toy’s unique features.

The meeting helped Meighan decide to make the ball a little larger than a tennis ball for safety reasons.

“For us, the safety of the dogs is really important, because we’re giving these to our own dogs,” Meighan said. His pug has personally tried out the toy, which is made of materials that are all compliant with Food and Drug Administration regulations, he said.

Liz Freitag, the owner of Peninsula Pups, said she was happy to help another local business owner.

“Everyone is totally about Erie (here),” said “They will choose a toy made in Erie over some corporation.”

Meighan is hoping that proves true. He included “Erie PA” with the One Leg Up! logo featured on each ball. A little logo in the corner of the packaging also shows that the product is made in Erie.

“We want to do something positive in the Erie community, and I think this product is a great way to kind of showcase what our community can do,” he said.

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