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"Diggit" - Gardener Creates Weeding Tools

By Clare Shemeta

When my mother Elena Shemeta, was laid off at age 62 from her job as a Media Project Planner, she spent as much time as possible gardening. She'd get so frustrated weeding with a claw. The claw disturbed the surface so that weeds couldn't be found in the mess and the roots re-sprouted. She rummaged around the cellar and found an old foot long metal tent stake used when her family of six children used to camp in the mountains. Eureka! It worked great because it was long and skinny enough to get out the bad roots without damaging the good ones. So she happily used it for years.

Elena Shemeta - Diggit Co-founder

Elena Shemeta in her garden with the Duck and Diggit

My brother Paul, a mechanical engineer, saw her using it and commented, "It would he more comfortable with a handle on it."

She just shrugged. Paul works as an engineer half time so he can develop his own inventions. One of his patents is for an "Explosive Actuated Battering Ram." Eventually, the handle idea germinated in Elena's head and sprouted: "Hummmm... you invent all these esoteric things that no one needs. Why don't you see if you can make a marketable tool out of the tent stake?" she asked Paul. "It should have a brilliant red handle so you won't lose it. We'll call it Diggit."

No market research. No business plan.

No enthusiasm from Paul either, but eventually he started to try different kinds of handles, metals for the blade, and adhesives to join them. Uniting a soft handle with a hard blade is an enormous challenge, according to my brother. Many months later, he had a galvanized steel blade attached very securely to a soft brilliant red handle. In the loft of his garage, he started making Diggits.

Elena sent a Diggit with a note ahout its origins to Marianne Binetti, a down-to-earth garden writer, who mentioned it in an article. Eagle Hardware and Garden saw the article and began to sell the tools in seven Western states.

Enter the Duck and Diggit2

When gardeners told Paul they needed a tool to get weeds out of cracks or stuck in their perennials he came up with the Duck, a hooked blade that is narrow enough to weed between rocks or flagstone. Then, when people started using Diggit as a crowbar, he made a stainless steel version of the Diggit. They named that Diggit2. It comes with a lifetime warranty. With about 60,000 tools sold, only one was returned under warranty; Paul says it appears the owner ran it over with his SUV. Paul manufactures Diggits with a machine he designed - a real Rube Goldberg thing that turns out 140 an hour.

All of my siblings and I are gardeners, two of us in Colorado.

We got our love and our knack for it from our mother. So I decided to join my brother and help in what has become a family business by marketing Diggits in Colorado. Introducing the tools here has been a challenge. For one thing, large garden product distributors do all their ordering 10 months in advance and approaching retailers who carry other tools is a hard sell. I recently saw a newspaper article showing master gardeners planting single seeds with tweezers - a very time consuming process, and rushed down to deliver Diggits, because they're also great for dispersing seeds. But my attempt to provide free tools to the master gardeners was rejected because the extension service is not allowed to endorse products.

Let's just say that years of experience selling mid-range systems for IBM gave me zilch in the way of preparation for a small business. On the other hand, gardeners are great networkers and the results from grassroots, word-of-mouth promotion has been astounding and interesting.

Sunset Magazine, Spring 2003

This Spring, a tiny article and photo appeared in some Sunset magazine editions and our homegrown business exploded into a national one. View Sunset Magazine article. When a gardener from Rhode Island called to order three Diggits, my mother asked her, "How can you possibly know about Diggit? You're at the other end of the world!" Her reply: "You've heard of the U.S. mail? I lived in California for 20 years and have my Sunset Magazine sent here." My mother and Paul have a lot of fun chatting with customers since "gardeners are the most wonderful people in the universe". Meanwhile, I'll keep digging up weeds and spreading the word. Both jobs are getting easier.

Clare Shemeta is an independent information technology consultant, avid rock climber part time gardener and mother of three.

Diggit Sources in Colorado
BeeYard Gardens in Crawford
Sturtz & Copeland in Boulder, Boulder Garden Club

For more info : 425 454 0125 or www.diggitinc.com

Colorado Gardener Magazine: www.coloradogardener.com