From Inventor to Entrepreneur When No Company Would Distribute Weed Eater

BallasGeorgeWeedEaterInventer2011-08-08.jpg “George Ballas showed off in 1975 the original Weed Eater, a popcorn can rigged up with some wires.” Source of caption and photo: online version of the WSJ obituary quoted and cited below.

(p. A5) George Ballas got his big idea after a poisonous snake bit a worker who was trimming his lawn with shears. The idea turned an old popcorn can, some wires and an edger into the Weed Eater.

Mr. Ballas, who died Saturday at age 85, was a dance instructor, developer, inventor and marketer who built hotels, patented an adjustable table and marketed an early portable phone.
. . .
Mr. Ballas said the idea for the Weed Eater came to him while he was in a car wash, contemplating the big rotating bristles that cleaned hard-to-reach corners yet somehow didn’t scratch the finish.
Drawing from that inspiration, he rigged up an old popcorn can with some wires and hooked it to a rotating edger, and the first string trimmer was born.
. . .
He hired an engineer to design new models that substituted monofilament fishing line for wire and ran on electricity and gas. He dubbed it “Weed Eater” and held several patents on it.
When Mr. Ballas failed to find a company interested in distributing the device, he decided to sell it himself.
. . .
Mr. Ballas also taught entrepreneurship at Rice University in Houston. He continued to tinker with new inventions, and at one point marketed a football-helmet-sized portable phone that found few takers.
“A Weed Eater,” Mr. Ballas told the Houston Chronicle in 1993, “comes along once in a lifetime.”

For the full obituary, see:
STEPHEN MILLER. “REMEMBRANCES; Dance Studio Owner Invented Weed Eater.” The Wall Street Journal (Thurs., JUNE 30, 2011): A5.
(Note: ellipses added.)

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