Making Vital Supply Connections

David Blake, whose company Blue-9 Pet Products makes dog training and behavior products, needed a rubber mat.

The specially designed mat is used on the KLIMB®, a platform used to train hunting/sport dogs. Blake’s mat maker was going out of business, leaving Blue-9 in need of a new vendor. He found one in South Dakota through CIRAS’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) National NetworkTM, which uses people and technology to scout for Iowa businesses.

Blue-9 pet Products owner, David Blake with dog, Roo on the KLIMB.
Blue-9 Pet Products owner, David Blake with dog, Roo on the KLIMB.

“Most products manufacturers are looking for are not commercially available off the shelf,” said Melissa Burant, CIRAS project manager. “We work to find solutions that are wholesale, direct to the manufacturer.”

Blake worked in the cellphone industry for several years but had a mold-making hobby. One day, a law enforcement officer asked him to create a small table for dog training. That suggestion led to KLIMB®, a patented product on which Blake built Blue-9. Blake worked with the Iowa Economic Development Authority on funding and with CIRAS on product testing and proof of commercialization. CIRAS also advised Blue-9 on website development and digital marketing. Founded in 2014, the company now has annual sales in the multimillions and its products are sold throughout the world.

The grippy rubber mat is used on the top of a training table to help sport dogs release and land faster. It’s a must-have component for a top-selling Blue-9 product. Busy running a successful business, Blue-9 found that having CIRAS conduct a search for a new vendor was “extremely beneficial. They found places I didn’t know about,” Blake said.

Working with counterparts in South Dakota, Burant connected Blue-9 with Glacial Lakes Rubber and Plastics in Watertown, SD. Burant stepped away from the process when the two companies decided to talk, allowing buyers and suppliers to validate fit and negotiate. Glacial Lakes is now providing Blue-9 with a “product that is superior to my previous manufacturer’s and that maintained the price,” said Blake.

“This success story illustrates the power of collaboration between the MEP centers and its real effect on manufacturers,” said Michelle Kakacek, director of South Dakota Manufacturing and Technology Solutions. “As the initiative progresses, the program’s knowledge bases will grow, allowing for many more connections like Blue-9 and Glacial Lakes.”

For more information, contact Melissa Burant at or 563-726-9958.