Photo by Aaron Ricca.
KINGMAN – One local woman is looking to get tails wagging.
Life has been handing Renee Gratza a bad hand, so she’s decided to bite back – with money she’d hopefully make from ‘Shreddy Bear’, a dog toy she invented.
Troy Ideker, her 22-year-old son, has been a special needs child since he was a child. He’s had attention deficit disorder since kindergarten and was eventually diagnosed as mildly mentally retarded.
“I don’t consider it a bad word,” she said. “I consider it descriptive.”
Gratza was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2004. Her blended family brought more challenges. She married a man with three children from another marriage with an ex-wife she says was extremely vindictive, making their new life miserable. Ideker’s biological father hasn’t been in the picture much, but with help from Gratza’s current husband, she’s mostly been raising Ideker on her own.
“I’m his only advocate,” she said.
Between the diagnoses and family troubles, life had taken a turn for the worst.
“My life just kind of spiraled out of control,” she said. “I couldn’t really help my son.”
She’s always had inventions brewing in her head. She began praying to God for help until she received a calling to design a dog toy.
“I woke up one morning and heard God say ‘You’re going to have to do this’,” she said.
She got ahold of friends from her old church in Glendale – one of which put her in contact with a patent lawyer. According to Gratza, he had good connections in the patent business.
“We started the steps to make a patent,” she said.
She made a prototype and filmed a crude advertisement video. She worked a deal with the Elvis Presley estate to use his song (Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear for $25 for a year.
She thought she’d have the toys flying off shelves by now. She was granted a patent and had made prototypes with friend Neil Werde of Quaker Pet Group. They were working on a licensing agreement when Quaker merged with another company. Werde lost the power to continue producing the toys.
All that’s left of the original effort the Gratza’s patent, a suitcase full of prototypes and the need for a vendor to continue where Werde left off.
Gratza’s has since shifted gears. She can’t afford to put her son in a special needs residence home where he could get the care she can’t always provide. She said she got another calling from God.
“God said to me ‘You will not profit from this toy’,” she said. “I need to find someone with business savvy to help use the profits to help kids with special needs.”
She doesn’t plan to profit at all and wants the money to go straight back towards helping special needs children.
“I’m begging for someone to help out,” she said. “I know someone is out there.”
She made an audition video for the ABC reality show ‘Shark Tank’ in 2014. So far they haven’t bitten. She hasn’t given up on hope or Shreddy Bear. Despite her disability, she said she’ll do whatever it takes to help her son and others like him.
“I guess I’m auditioning to America,” she said. “This toy will help him and so many others.”
To see how Shreddy Bear works, watch the original Shark Tank audition at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ikV7-05t_sk.
For more information or serous about helping, contact Renee at firstname.lastname@example.org.