July 3, 2011

Inventor of the Weed Eater, George Ballas dies at 85

In the Los Angeles Times, by Valerie Nelson,  George Ballas dies at 85; intrepid inventor created the Weed Eater

"He was laughed at by major corporations, who told him to take his idea and take a hike," his son said. "He started making it anyway, and it caught on like wildfire."

Within months of inventing the Weed Eater at his Houston home, Ballas had streamlined the design into a single strand of fishing line spun around by a lightweight motor.

"Simplicity of design was the key to its phenomenal success," Mechanix Illustrated magazine said in 1983.

Net sales rose from about $570,000 in 1972 to $41 million in 1976. The next year, Ballas sold the business to Emerson Electric Co. for an undisclosed amount.
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Within months of inventing the Weed Eater at his Houston home, Ballas had streamlined the design into a single strand of fishing line spun around by a lightweight motor.

"Simplicity of design was the key to its phenomenal success," Mechanix Illustrated magazine said in 1983.

Net sales rose from about $570,000 in 1972 to $41 million in 1976. The next year, Ballas sold the business to Emerson Electric Co. for an undisclosed amount.

Son of a Greek immigrant , a bombardier in the Army Air Forces during World War II, he met his future wife when he saw her perform the flamenco. 

Ballas worked in dance studios, managing Arthur Murray and Fred Astaire locations and trouble-shooting for franchises.  After he sold his dance hall in 1970, he went into commercial real estate and a year later invented the weed-eater.

While driving through an automatic carwash in 1971, George Ballas watched the whirling nylon bristles glide around the contour of his vehicle and wondered if he could adapt the technology to remove the weeds around trees in his yard.

At home, he punched holes in a tin can, threaded it with wire and fishing line and bolted it to a rotating lawn edger. He called it the Weed Eater, and when he couldn't sell the concept, he founded his own company and built it into a $40-million-a-year business. 
Posted by Jill Fallon at July 3, 2011 8:07 PM | Permalink