Columbia Business Times
Author: Lauren E. Sable
Published on: July 11th, 2003
(Editors Note: In each issue this summer, the Columbia Business Times will showcase a business success story that illustrates continued growth and expansion beyond the city limits.)
After his aunt paid $6,500 to repair rodent damage to her house, Doug Wulff developed an effective solution to keep animals away from homes and power lines.
Critter Line and Pole Guards hit the market a year and a half ago with its headquarters in Columbia. Since then, more than 9,000 Line Guards and 300 Pole Guards have been installed throughout the United States, Canada and Australia, Wulff said. "After a couple of months of market research, we found animals to be the second leading cause of power outages," Wulff said. "As the only new product that could prevent access, we felt our products would offer utilities a much better option for squirrel mitigation."
While power companies previously protected power lines by utilizing heavily insulated cables, squirrels are still able to nest and burrow in the equipment and chew through the insulation.
Boone Electric uses the Critter Guard and has found it to be a useful device, according to Ryan Euliss, manager of Engineering and Technical Services at Boone Electric."
Critter Guard effectively reduces the number of animal related blinks and service interruptions," Euliss said. Both homeowners and utility companies have benefited from Critter Guard products, because insurance companies don't cover rodent damage, Wulff said, a lesson he learned when his aunt went to repair the damage squirrels caused to her roof after they accessed it by walking across above ground power lines. "
Homeowners find that our products not only solve a big source of their problems, but are quite entertained watching these squirrels try and navigate the barrier," Wulff said.
Utility providers are also finding benefits to implementing the use of Critter Guard products and therefore keeping squirrels away from transformers and substations."
We can dramatically reduce the amount of overtime hours and replacement costs these companies realize," Wulff said. "In addition, utilities can now better meet their reliability targets, which in turn means less disruption in service to their customers." Wulff said 47 different power companies are now repeat customers, and he expects to see substantial growth in the next two years. Since the company first started, Critter Guard has also hired an electrical engineer and a product distribution manager to help with the business.
Critter Guard is currently partnering with professional pest control companies and allowing them to sell and install Critter Guard products for their customers. Due to installation and liability issues, Critter Guard is not available to homeowners for self-installation. However, the partnership with pest control businesses allows the product to reach the homeowner market. Critter Guard products have been recognized for their value and functionality as well. Electrical Contracting and Engineering News recognized Critter Line and Pole Guards as one of the Top 25 Products of the Year. The products were chosen on the basis of six criteria: innovation, ease of use, value for price, availability, service support and durability. More than 500 products were entered, Wulff said.
Critter Guard also accepted the Wildlife Damage Control Web Award, an award established by Wildlife Damage Control to help people identify Web sites that provide responsible and effective solutions to wildlife damage problems."
When you provide a quality product that is inexpensive, easy to install and performs like no other, growth is only limited to how well and how frequently you're able to get your message across," Wulff said.