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Young Entrepreneur Success Story: STEM to SOCIAL IMPACT
Most teenagers these days are video gaming, playing sports or getting social online and at the mall in their out-of-school time.
In Leominster, Massachusetts -- Rachelle Wailes and Matthew Aronson are breaking the mold and leading a revolution – the FLEXFIT Revolution – embarking on an entrepreneurial journey, lucky enough, with their parents. Heather Wailes, Jack Wailes and David Aronson are not your average parents either – Rachelle’s mom Heather is a mechanical engineer; her dad Jack has a strong manufacturing background; and Matthew’s dad David is owner of a small business in Leominster. Together, they’re using this opportunity to pass down important life lessons and a pragmatic entrepreneurship experience for their kids in a truly admirable way.
It all started in 2014 -- after a team of students competed in a national STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) competition sponsored by the Army Educational Outreach Program called ‘eCYBERMISSION’. Rachelle, a dancer; and Matthew, a baseball player – lent their athletic prowess to help invent and validate the design of an injury prevention training device that helps increase your range of motion through massage, stretching and trigger point therapy. The teens learned engineering principles through this competition and leveraged the experience to produce the first generation prototype of their product. Today, it has spawned into a company called KRAM (Kinetic Range and Motion) Wellness Group and the FLEXFIT is starting to gain traction within the fitness community.
BIZ PLAN COMPETITION TO CLINICAL
After eCYBERMISSION, the team continued developing the FLEXFIT by conducting over 100 prototype evaluations, facilitating 8-months of test market trials, and a 6-week clinical study at Boston Children's Hospital – all which resulted in over 2 years of product development and testing. The team also competed in 2014 Mt. Wachusetts Chamber of Commerce Business Plan Competition, and was awarded first place winning $2,000! Along the way, they received mentorship from their local Worcester SCORE Chapter. Co-counseled by a team of ‘trouble-makers’ (as David Aronson puts it) – Bob Aspell helped them avoid common pitfalls and guide them through the initial stages, Ed Meyer lent his engineering background and Ken Simms helped them identify marketing distribution channels. Partly because of this group of seasoned advisors, the product is patent-pending worldwide today and ready to go to market. Because the FLEXFIT is clinically-proven to increase flexibility, release tension and ease back pain – the kids have a great shot at taking it to the next level with evidence-based research to back their medical claims.
ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL IMPACT
Today, the FLEXFIT is in the 8th generation of its product evolution – the conclusion of a Kickstarter campaign yielded $59,959 for a total of 916 backers from 38 countries and every continent but Antarctica -- far exceeding the $8,200 goal that was originally established. But that’s not the most amazing thing about this company. The social and economic impact of this startup company is benefiting the most vulnerable in central Massachusetts, providing employment for people with disabilities. Through a partnership with The ARC of Opportunity, a nonprofit dedicated to protecting the civil rights and dignity of people with disabilities – the FLEXFIT is being assembled and packaged locally with support from the day habilitation program. This allows for a therapeutic and medical approach to skill-building and providing a stepping-stone to full-time work. KRAM Wellness as a company, is building a business model that is committed to giving back to the community through economic and social impact and don’t be surprised if we see the kids reach their goal of appearing on Shark Tank in the near future!