So…how do you go from working a side job as a hospital therapy tech to owning a company that distributes walker storage racks across the United States?
Let’s take a step back- Chris and I met at Grand Valley State University while we were pursuing our under graduate degrees. Chris was studying clinical exercise science and I was a health communications major. As every student aspiring to join the healthcare force knows, you must have experience in the field, so you become a receptionist, tech, aid, etc. Thus, Chris started working as a therapy tech at Metropolitan Hospital in their rehab department.
One day, Chris was assigned the daunting task of re-organizing the therapy storage closet. Let me paint the picture - the 12x12 foot room was packed with approximately 40 folding walkers, surrounded by a barricade of canes, crutches, and wheelchairs. Thus, the online searching commenced because there obviously had to be a more practical way to store these walkers, right?....Nope. Nada. Zip. There was absolutely nothing available that offered a logical, orderly way to get these things off the floor and out of the way.
A month and hours of brainstorming later, Chris stood proud in my parents’ barn with the first official “Werth Rack” prototype. It consisted of two 2x4's and hand bent hooks. A little measly on the eyes, but by golly, it worked! Each walker had its own hook, you could change the leg height with the walker still neatly racked, and it saved a TON of space. How had no one thought of this before…. it was SO simple!
Over the next three years we worked our rear-ends off. I mean seriously, nose to the grindstone, 17-hour days were the norm. There were weekends when I stopped studying at 9:00 pm and we would package orders until 11:00 pm in my parents’ basement. We slept little, but dreamed big.
Chris continued to refine the initial design, I wrote the provisional patent (a year later we received our utility patent a week before we got married!), we competed and won 5x5 Night (Grand Rapids’s mini version of Shark Tank), and we “launched” our product at the American Physical Therapy Association’s Combined Sections Meeting (CSM).
Lets be real, it wasn’t all Instagram-worthy moments. Our first international sale ended up being a fraud, we forgot to ship our supplies early to CSM, costing us a $2,000 late fee, and I may or may not have had a couple legit, on the ground, sobbing temper tantrums.
Whew…time flies. We now have two local distributors, Market Lab and Alco, and recently signed with Performance Health, previously known as Patterson Medical and one of the largest international medical and rehab device sales companies. Our sales have continued to grow each year and we have racks in hospitals and rehab facilities spanning from New York to California. We still have a long way to go, but so far, its all been Werth it.