Young inventor starts business full of leaves

By Maureen Costello Belt - Correspondent

While in the midst of burning a beautiful weekend clearing his yard of leaves last year, Alex Marciente, Jr., had an epiphany. Well, not an epiphany, so much as a realization that there had to be a better way.

The Concord Middle School seventh grader and his dad, Alex Marciente, Sr., spent the weekend raking maple leaves from their West Concord yard onto a tarp. They then transferred the flimsy tarp from the ground to the bed of Alex Sr.’s pickup truck. This process was repeated until the bed was layered with crunchy dead leaves which the Alexes did their best to keep from flying away as the truck made its way to the Concord Public Works’ Yard Waste Compost Site on Walden Street.

At the site, the Alexes waited impatiently among other Concordians for their turn to brush out the cargo, and go home and do it all over again. And – on this particular leaf-strewn weekend – again.

“I got the idea last year when I was at the dump,” said Alex Jr., now an eighth grader, using the colloquial reference to the compost site. “I said, ‘This stinks.’ I was like, there’s got to be a simpler way to do this.”

Alex Sr., agreed. “We looked around at all the miserable people at the dump and their trucks. Everyone was miserable.”

A year later, the Marcientis did discover a “simpler way,” but finding it was not so simple. The solution came after months of taking measurements, researching fabrics, interviewing factories and drawing designs. After lots of trial and error Alex Sr. and Alex Jr, invented BagYak, an industrial strength, reusable bag designed to easily transport a pickup truck’s worth of leaves from yard to the compost site – or wherever you want to bring it.

“It really is my son’s idea,” said Alex Sr. “We have a couple of maple trees in the yard.” A quick google search indicates that the average mature maple tree lets loose up to 60,000 leaves every fall, necessitating the Alexes’ invention.

Keeping it local, the Alexes first stopped by Rocky’s Ace Hardware and purchased a truckload of tarps. Sadly, Alex Jr.’s initial idea of creating a prototype by duct-taping tarps together proved a failure. The tape could not support the drag necessary to transport the leaf-filled tarps from the ground, never mind to the compost site.

“They fell apart,” Alex Jr. said.

“We kept plugging away and here we are a year later and we have a product,” said Alex Sr. who works for a health-based software company. “We’ll see if it sells.”

The father-son tandem spent the first few months measuring the beds of every pickup truck in the neighborhood and every truck they encountered. Then there were the dimensions of the pesky wheel wells that needed to be factored in. “We may be the most knowledgeable two guys about truck beds,” he said.

“We’d combine things together, see what works, what doesn’t work,” said Alex Jr. “Duct tape doesn’t work.”

Using tools on the Google platform, the Alexes began drawing designs for durable, reusable bags to securely fit the beds of mid- to full-size pickup trucks.  “We tried to get away with making one but there is no one-size-fits-all,” Alex, Sr. said, adding, “This was a nice way for Alex and me to have a project to do together coming out of Covid.”

The Marcienti family relocated to the West Concord home in 2020 after spending six years in Europe for Helen Marcienti’s pharmaceutical job. The family also includes Mirabella, 18 and Adrianna, 17.

After every truck bed in their vicinity and beyond was measured, the Marcientis began researching industrial fabrics, handles and manufacturers. It was important to both that everything be of excellent quality, and that every BagYak be manufactured in the USA using only US-made materials

“In the beginning, it was slow going,” the younger Alex admitted. “The hardest part was making it work. The worst part was not having one.”

Alex Sr. said the process was reminiscent of “Ted Lasso,” the fictional Apple TV soccer coach famous for encouraging distraught players to quickly forget their mistakes and instead refocus on their goals. “You have to ‘believe,’” Alex Sr., said, quoting Lasso. “It would have been so easy to quit after the first prototype ripped.”

Both father and son are glad they kept going. They enjoyed learning about different truck models and the surprising similarities among them. They learned about precision and its vitality to design.

“You can’t cheat your way out of the system,” Alex Sr. said.

Like the product itself, the Alexes devised the name together. “Yak means strength,” said Alex, Jr. “A yak is a very strong animal.”

His father agreed. “Plus ‘yak’ is short and easy to spell,” he said, adding with a laugh, “We looked up the URL and the name ‘BagYak’ was available.”

Flyers placed on the windshields of parked pickups, and ads on FaceBook generated sales to happy customers from as far as Pennsylvania. The two BagYak models, which are only available online, are designed for mid- to full-size pickup trucks. Owners of both sedans and mature maple trees, have patience – a BagYak designed for you may be coming soon.

 “We are reaching out,” said Alex Sr.

Alex Jr., doubts many of his friends at Concord Middle School know he and his dad spent countless hours designing a product to streamline autumnal yard clearing. Professional and amateur landscapers everywhere can now get rid of leaves in a fraction of the time it once took, leaving the nonrenewable resource of time available for other endeavors.

“It’s at least four times better this year than last,” said Alex, Jr. “Before we were taking three to four trips to the dump. Now, we are taking one. It’s a lot easier.”

Added his father, “I’m really proud of the work that Alex did.”