Ashland High School graduate Max Marvin knows dark and dreary winter days can affect people in a bad way but says it can be hard on Fido, too.
Feeling depressed in winter and struggling with sleep loss, Marvin was told by doctors to get more sunlight. But that can be a problem in Oregon, which isn't exactly California. To combat the dreary winter months, the doctor suggested artificial light, so Marvin went home with a bulky boxed lamp.
As Marvin, now 22, fired up his lamp, he noticed he wasn't the only one enjoying it.
His golden retriever, Luke, seemed to spend more time lying in front of the light than whining to be taken on outside.
A bulb went on in Marvin's head. What about light therapy to help combat seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, in animals? Pawsitive Lighting was born. He called it the Sol Box.
After getting fabrication going in the United Kingdom and distribution in Portland, as well as some good local publicity, Marvin awoke Thursday morning to a big surprise. His invention had piqued the interest of ABC's "Good Morning America." The crew wanted to shoot the segment that afternoon and air it Friday.
"I told them 'yes, definitely' and began frantically cleaning my apartment," Marvin said with a laugh.
By 1 p.m., Marvin's living room was brimming with camera and crew.
"Honestly, it was a bit nerve racking," said Marvin, "I've done interviews before but never one that was going to air on national TV and reach millions of people."
The Sol Box is a sleek, 15-inch-tall, boxed lamp that radiates UV-filtered fluorescent light.
"Animals need light just the way humans do," says Marvin. "Sunlight triggers chemical responses in the brain that raise serotonin levels and stabilize moods and overall sense of well-being."
The Sol Box isn't only for those in drizzly climates.
"I even mail a lot of them down to sunny California," says Marvin. "It's great for people who have tight schedules and can't find enough time to take their dog out."
Has he struck gold at this young age?
"We'll see," Marvin said, again with a laugh. "I'm still absorbing the whole thing but I think I should expect a bit of a spike in sales from this."
Marvin balances two businesses run completely on his own — no employees — as well as his economic studies at Portland State University. He graduated from Ashland High School in 2009.
"It's a lot to juggle but I like to have everything in my own hands," he said.
Marvin first cut his business teeth in 2011 with a start-up called Bare Backpacks — a Portland company catering to the simplistic, fashion-centric, urban-inspired backpack. Since then, he has had his bags featured on large online retailers, including JackThreads.
"It was great way to learn to run a start-up," Marvin said. "I approached it thinking anything that can go wrong will go wrong and that helped me take things in stride."
Armed with lessons learned starting Bare Backpacks, Marvin created a more streamlined process for getting Pawsitive Lighting running.
"With Pawsitive I was able to dodge a lot of the hiccups I hit the first time with Bare," says Marvin. "I learned about importing, shipping, websites, customer service the first time.
There's no sure way to take on that first startup, Marvin observed.
"You've just got to do something, go do anything," he said. "Put your foot out and make a mark."
For more on Pawsitive Lighting, see pawsitivelighting.com.
Colin Darling is an Ashland-based freelance writer. Reach him at email@example.com.