The Inventors: Elaine Schroeck and the Lawn Buddy

Inventor Elaine Schroeck: Trying to reduce the time you're outstanding in your field.

By GREGORY ZELLER // Elaine Schroeck doesn’t mind caring for her lawn. She’s just bothered by having to do it twice.

Every. Single. Time.

Like most do-it-yourself home gardeners, Schroeck is trapped in a lawn maintenance time warp: She’ll haul out her push lawnmower, mow the grass surrounding her East Islip home, then put the mower away, break out the trimmer and head around the property again, neatening up the edges and corners the mower couldn’t reach.

Unlike most weekend green thumbs, Schroeck did something about it.

She was “talking to my mower one day,” the inventor noted, lamenting the fact that the mowing was done but now she had to go back around again to trim the corners and difficult spots.

lawnbuddy“It’s time-consuming,” Schroeck noted. “It’s twice the effort. I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if there was a trimmer attached to the mower so you could get all of it in one swipe?’”

So the secretary at a Garden City public accounting firm came up with the Lawn Buddy, an adjustable device that attaches to most standard push mowers and allows easy trimming of difficult edges, lawns that abut fences and other pesky ground-level greenery.

Although she’s yet to build a prototype, Schroeck – who has no engineering training and has never before designed a product or invention of any kind – has drawn up the schematics and even had a manufacturing company, Florida-based Idea Design Studio, create an animation explaining how it works: a small adjustable housing containing a rechargeable battery and spool wrapped with a thin plastic line, similar to a Weed Whacker.

The housing tilts, allowing the user to set it at a 60-degree angle – good against a fence line or flower bed – or 90-degree angle, perfect for where the lawn meets the sidewalk. The device can also be rotated 180 degrees around the perimeter of the mower before locking into position, so if the fence is on the right or the flowers are on the left, all angles are covered.

The device is not connected to the lawnmower mechanics. It’s operated through a separate control set that runs up to the mower’s push bar, facilitating one-handed operation.

Schroeck applied for and received a utility patent for the Lawn Buddy design in 2011, and in 2012 approached her first manufacturing company: InventHelp, an invention-submission company whose TV ad seemed like a good fit. However, while InventHelp estimated a price range of about $80 for the Lawn Buddy – in the lower middle of the $50 to $150 trimmer range, Schroeck noted – the organization made little progress beyond that.

The inventor also attended her first meeting of the Suffolk Inventors & Entrepreneurs Club that year, and fell in with a group of retired Grumman engineers who expressed interest in the Lawn Buddy concept. But “after eight months, the whole thing stalled,” Schroeck noted.

“I’m obviously just not knocking on the right doors,” she said. “I’m at a dead end and I don’t know where to go next.”

The patent-holder, however, does know one thing: Once she finds the right partner and gets the Lawn Buddy off the drawing board and onto the shelves at major retailers and home-care centers, her invention is sure to carve a new path in the annals of do-it-yourself lawn maintenance.

“Everybody I talk to thinks it’s a great idea,” she said. “Everybody I’ve tried to work with has loved the idea also, but for some reason nobody has been able to follow through.

“I think anybody who maintains their own lawn is going to really love it,” Schroeck added. “It cuts their lawn-care time in half, and it will work just as effectively as having a separate Weed Whacker. Only, with half the effort.”