After Will Warne’s first daughter, Harper, was born in 2008, he started looking for modified strollers, known as kid joggers, designed to allow parents to jog or run with their young children.
“I immediately discovered that it’s a horrible product space,” Warne said. “Kid joggers are heavy; they’re awkward; they’re injury-prone; they’re limited in the terrain they can cover.”
Warne started designing prototypes in 2010 for a lightweight, runner-friendly kid jogger, which is now known as KidRunner.
In the last five years, Warne has added employees and business partners to refine the design. His unique kid jogger was one of five finalists for the Bend Venture Conference concept stage in 2014. Earlier this month, KidRunner received a Small Business & Innovation Award from the Portland Business Journal, making it the only company outside of Portland to receive one of the eight awards.
Warne said the company, which began taking pre-orders in September, and will be closing its first round of orders Dec. 31, is still looking for licensing and distributing partners. The goal, he said, is to cut down on the projected three-month delivery window and eventually establish a retail presence.
“We need to figure out a way to expand our go-to-market demand and scale, so we’re interested in licensing partnerships,” Warne said.
While other kid joggers require you to push the apparatus, Warne’s design features a waist harness that allows runners to pull the jogger behind them, which Warne said allows runners to use their energy more effectively and better avoid injury.
“Your upper body, when running, generates 15 to 20 percent of your biomechanic efficiency,” Warne said. “So the second you give your upper body up and lean over to push, you’re immediately giving up to 20 percent of your efficiency, which is a lot in sports.”
Additionally, Warne said, the KidRunner, at 22 pounds, is lighter than most joggers on the market, many of which can exceed 30 pounds. Warne’s initial prototype utilized aviation-grade plywood, but the company began working with the Bend manufacturing firm Composite Approach in fall 2014 to refine the design.
“Their mission was to close the 10 percent performance gap we couldn’t close with the materials we were using,” Warne said of Composite Approach. “We knew we had to use advanced, intelligent materials, and they did that.”
The KidRunner prototypes were manufactured using a composite that includes carbon, Kevlar and fiberglass. However, Ben Zimmerman, operations manager for Composite Approach, said the two companies are currently exploring other materials, including carbon-fiber reinforced plastic, that could would allow them to produce KidRunners more affordably.
“We think it would be a great fit for them,“ Zimmerman said.
Warne added that the company has also found promoting the product challenging. There are only two KidRunner units in existence, which means most customers are placing pre-orders without trying the product.
To generate support for the product, KidRunner is working with nine athlete sponsors to promote the product. One, Bend-based professional runner Max King, won the BigFoot 10K race in 2014 while pulling his daughter behind him in a KidRunner.
“Being a runner, it made things a lot easier,” King said of the product.
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