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As the Purina Better With Pets host John Hockenberry said, “she’s a little intimidating.” Fourteen-year-old Brooke Martin is an award-winning inventor from Spokane, Washington, an honor student, the head of a company, and, not incidentally, a poised and passionate speaker. She introduced herself simply as “the inventor and founder of a product called ICPooch,” an innovative device that plugs into a tablet and allows people to video-chat with their dogs—“and even give them treats” with the push of a smart phone button.
Brooke began her presentation by pointing out that technology “strengthens the human connection.” She pointed to an image onscreen: “This is a picture of me with my sisters. The human one’s name is Grace; she’s 11 years old. And the other furry ones are Kayla and Zoey, and they’re seven. These three girls are not only my sisters—they’re my very best friends.” She and Grace are “always a text away, because we have the technology.”
“Unfortunately, in the morning, I have to say goodbye” to Kayla and Zoey. “And it’s heartbreaking that I can’t connect with them until I’m back home again.” Kayla had canine separation anxiety, which afflicts more than 10 million dogs in the U.S. alone. Brooke “wanted to find a way to help them.”
In an 8th grade project about entrepreneurship, she came up with the idea for iCPooch. She then participated in Start Up Weekend, which is a 54-hour program where people go to and pitch their ideas. “There were 39 adults and myself who pitched, and I ended up getting the most number of votes. So I got to work with a team of developers and designers.”
With the help of her dad, she developed some prototypes. “My parents asked me: do you have time for this?” The self-described “entrepreneur at heart” made the time. Brooke made phone calls in her Spokane community, asking for help, got a team of advisers, filed for utility patents, pitched to investors, and iCPooch began manufacturing. “I’ve gone through this whole process and it’s been so fascinating to see how it progresses,” said Brooke.
Her invention “strengthens the bond between you and your pet because it’s a two-way communication,” she said. “It’s not just you looking in on your dog. Your dog sees you and you give them a treat.” On behalf of her company, she has traveled the country. “We have met with soldiers who tear up at having to be deployed overseas and leave their dogs for who knows how long. College students…and people in the hospital whose dogs can’t visit.”
“We’ve received such wonderful PR and feedback,” said Brooke, from media such as the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and “Fox & Friends.” Today, iCPooch is available for sale online.
“For the future, we are working on other applications,” including a cat-oriented version and one for kids or grandparents (she is working on an adaptation that will enable you dispense medication to seniors). iCPooch “makes life truly better for our pets,” she said. No wonder John Hockenberry suggested that Brooke Martin is the “Steve Jobs of dog treats.”