If you’ve ever spent time watching over a baby that’s learning how to walk, you’re familiar with the queer mix of terror and pride that it inspires. And, depending on how old you are, you’re probably also familiar with the odd soreness that comes with having to constantly bend over to help the kid stay on their feet. The desire to eliminate the awkwardness of bending over, and its accompanying back strain, was what motivated Gabe Cohn to build his first Willa Walker.

Gabe didn’t want to stop teaching his niece how to walk just because it hurt his back whenever he had to crouch down to hold her hands. An engineer, he saw this as a problem in need of fixing. What he came up with was a simple yet effective tool to remain upright while giving his niece the support and comfort she needed to stand.

If that were the whole story, it would be a sweet one but not quite the sort of thing Planet Experts covers. We took notice when we learned that Gabe was committed to creating a sustainable supply chain for building more Willa Walkers.

“We Don’t Care How Long It Takes to Become Profitable”

According to Cornell University, some 6.7 million tons of wood scraps are wasted in the U.S. during new construction, remodeling and repair. It’s good wood, but there’s no system in place for putting it back to work. Gabe uses strips of wood to create the custom handles on the Willa Walker and has partnered with Masaya & Co., an eco-conscious furniture company, to source his handles from this treasure trove of unused wood scrap.

Gabe and his team have also partnered with Eden Reforestation Projects to close their production loop. Eden is an organization that employs local workers to reforest their communities and heal landscapes that have been stripped by the timber industry.

Finally, in fall 2015, Willa Walker partnered with Lonely Whale, an organization we’re very fond of. Now, for every standard Willa Walker sold, $1 is donated to the Lonely Whale Foundation; and for every Lonely Whale Walker sold, $10 will go to the foundation.

Willa Walker Inventor, Gabe Cohn, with his daughter, Poppy. (Photo via the Willa Walker Indiegogo page)

Willa Walker Inventor, Gabe Cohn, with his daughter, Poppy. (Photo via the Willa Walker Indiegogo page)

On Monday, Willa Walker launched its Indiegogo campaign to help grow their business in a sustainable, responsible way. The money raised through this campaign will go towards the purchase of a laser engraver. Sounds flashy (pun intended), but it will actually help to lower the company’s carbon footprint.

Currently, engraving a Willa Walker requires transporting the wood handle off-site to have the design engraved. By owning their own laser engraver, Willa Walker eliminates back and forth shipments to warehouses and reduces the carbon spewed in the process.

“We don’t care how long it takes to become profitable,” said the company in a press release. “We’re most focused on doing no harm and treating the earth, our customers, and our vendors like they are all as precious as our children who have all loved learning to walk using the Willa Walker.”

To learn more, check out Willa Walker’s Indiegogo page today!

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