A driven design Featured

8:00pm EDT June 25, 2009
Finalist
Manufacturing

Brad Baxter’s business was created from the drudgery of cleaning the litter box.

But before he ever thought of the Litter Robot or Automated Pet Care Products Inc., he already had a lifetime of entrepreneurship before him.

At age 9, Baxter collected and sold hickory nuts in his Wisconsin hometown. At 11, he was crafting wooden knife blocks to sell to restaurants on a consignment basis. And as a teenager, he operated a pumpkin patch.

Baxter started working at Ford Motor Co. after college with the dream of designing cars. But he soon ventured out, partnering with an Austrian business associate to develop automotive components for European clients.

Then he inherited two cats. And the accompanying cleaning duties led him to fulfill his dream of developing a popular product. Baxter incorporated Automated Pet Products in 1999 and began designing and assembling a self-cleaning litter box called the Litter Robot. He had trouble securing financing from banks but eventually found a supplier through his automotive network that invested in the tools, allowing him to update the way he made parts.

Sales finally took off and Baxter, president of the company, opened a warehouse and fulfillment facility near his supplier.

But customer service is his priority. He’s keen on responding to calls and e-mails rapidly. The product itself comes with a 90-day money-back guarantee and 18 months of full warranty.

Baxter also incorporates a green initiative into his strategy. He offers a recycled version of the Litter Robot; 83 percent of its parts are made of 100 percent recycled plastic. Customers can also return old Litter Robots to be recycled.

Baxter plans to completely redesign the Litter Robot, making it retail-friendly to tap into new distribution channels and to add technology that will allow pet owners to remotely monitor their pets at home.

How to reach: Automated Pet Care Products Inc., (248) 760-4163 or www.litter-robot.com