Mush, puppy!

Originally designed for extreme athletes, Diggler's scooters have gone to the dogs.

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By Rob Fruechtenicht, as told to Malika Zouhali-Worrall

mush_puppy.03.jpg
Originally designed for extreme athletes, Diggler's scooter has gone to the dogs. Here, Wiggins tows his owner, CEO Fruechtenicht.

(Fortune Small Business) -- When I started designing mountain scooters, I didn't have dogs in mind. I grew up in Marin County, Calif., watching guys from the area develop the mountain bike. It didn't take long for me to decide that I wanted to do something similar.

I was a competitive mountain biker, and I launched Diggler because I dreamed of inventing a sport that combined biking, boarding, and skiing. One day, soon after college, I took apart an old scooter, attached a skateboard platform to it, and added BMX bike wheels and the suspension system from my bike.

I started test-riding the contraption on mountain trails. One afternoon I tried to skid over a rock at a high speed. That was one of the worst wipeouts of my life. But it inspired me to add a plastic ski to the bottom of the scooter so that riders could slide more over rough terrain, enabling them to perform tricks without killing themselves.

At first I focused on selling to ski resorts, figuring that they could rent out the scooters during warmer months. After Mike Kloser, a triathlete and world champion mountain biker, took one of my scooters for a test run at Vail Resorts' Beaver Creek, I made my first sale in 1999 to the ski resort company, which bought a fleet of eight. Today about 50 ski resorts use my scooters.

I have no idea how dogsledders got hold of my product, but about three years ago I received a large order from a sled-dog equipment company. It turned out that they were attaching leashes to the scooters and using them to train dogs when there wasn't any snow. I soon realized that Diggler had tapped into a brand-new sport: urban mushing.

The International Sled Dog Racing Association holds dry-land races five times a year. Our overall sales hit about $500,000 last year, a third of which came from mushers. Thanks to recent design tweaks such as a more efficient leash attachment, we're hoping to increase the number of dog scooters we sell this year by 50%. I wanted to help create a new sport, but I never expected it to be this.

Rob Fruechtenicht is the Founder and CEO of Diggler in Petaluma, Calif.  To top of page

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