Local inventor making a path (literally)

Zach Russell’s invention – The Path Maker

By Kyle Roberts

How many of us can say that our greatest creative invention came from an episode of Judge Judy?

That’s exactly how the Path-Maker was incepted by Ruston resident Zach Russell back in 2017 when he was watching an afternoon episode of the hit courtroom reality show where a woman was suing a landscaper for leaving too many small stumps in her yard.

Thus, the Path-Maker was born.

“I had forgotten about this idea for a few months, but eventually I sat down with some people and starting drawing up some ideas,” Russell said. “We drew up different designs; some had fingers, some were more like hedge trimmers. We had a lot of different versions. And we grew it from generation after generation to what it is now.”

Currently available for purchase, the Path-Maker now, in layman’s terms, operates similarly to a chainsaw lain on its side for the purposes of clearing stumps, brush, and other forms of growth in a push-mower set up. Users can easily walk behind the Path-Maker and let it do its work.

Russell, along with his father Mark, both have poured countless hours, resources, and energy into the patent and marketing plans for the product in efforts to make the six-year dream a reality; currently, the duo have a garage full of product that they are eager to sell, due in large part to the upfront investment by the Russell family.

During the process, the feedback Russell has received on the Path-Maker has been overwhelming positive, from one-on-one feedback at trade shows, partners across the globe, and even large home improvement retailer Lowe’s.

Roadblocks have abounded, however, particularly with unfriendly policies by Lowe’s, who was so impressed with Russell and the Path-Maker that it was more than willing to stock the item for purchase, that contains language regarding returns that would make it nearly impossible for Russell to maintain profitability.

“We looked at the numbers,” Russell said about stocking his product at Lowe’s. “We’ve have to sell over 6,000 units at Lowe’s just to break even, with no profit. And we’d have to get $10 million in liability insurance, which was over $100,000 year.”

So, as it is, Russell is now working his way across the country showcasing what the Path-Maker can do and networking for meaningful connections from Wisconsin to Oklahoma to Louisiana– and it seems to be working.

Since first working on reporting for this story, Russell has already seen that as the months move toward spring and summer, demand for the Path-Maker is slowly on the rise, and feedback from buyers also aids in the quality control process.

“I’ve felt a lot better seeing the sales come in,” Russell said. “We’ve just had a few issues with (quality control) that was not as nice as we would have liked, but every time we point something out, it gets fixed and worked out.”

All in all, seems like a pretty good episode of Judge Judy for Russell and for landscapers everywhere.