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Childhood Accident Transforms Adversity Into Passion For Helping Others

Rakesh Srivastava, owner and founder of Hastings, NE based Innovative Prosthetics & Orthotics, is a textbook example of transforming childhood adversity into a career and a life-long passion for helping others in the fields of prosthetics and orthotics. Srivastava, born in India, was only 10 years old when his left leg above the knee was amputated due to an unfortunate accident. His experiences wearing a prosthetic limb and subsequent interest in the field led to him taking a position at the Akshay Pratisthan Rehabilitation Center in New Delhi. But this was only the beginning. In 1997 Srivastava relocated to the US and later received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from University of Nebraska Kearney. He then became certified by the American Board of Certified Prosthetics and Orthotists – a journey that culminated in him opening Innovative Prosthetics & Orthotics in Hastings, Nebraska in 2006.

What started as a 600-sq foot clinic with two employees has since blossomed into a 5600 square foot facility and an additional two full-time locations in Omaha (opened in 2009) and Grand Island (opened in 2011.) An additional 45 staff members have been hired over the years between his US clinics and clinical centers in India. Innovative Orthotics & Prosthetics is the only facility of its kind in Nebraska, and one of only a few in the US to develop low-cost 3D printed prosthetic devices.

The Nebraska Business Development Center, a partner of the U.S. Small Business Administration, played a part in the success of the company. Srivastava worked with NBDC’s Procurement and Technical Assistance Center to pursue government contracts with the Department of Veterans Affairs in 2013. In 2015, he worked with NBDC’s Technology Commercialization Team to obtain a prototype grant from the state of Nebraska. Most recently, NBDC consultant Sara Bennett started working with Srivastava in 2018 to help him expand his current operations to include 3D print manufacturing of prosthetic devices. Bennett helped prepare the business plan and loan package, and the end result led to CRA, Tax Increment and bank financing to begin 3D printing operations. Later in 2018, Srivastava started an affiliate company, Shabri, LLC, and began manufacturing custom-made prosthetic devices for patients through the use of 3-D printing technology. Bennett also helped on another Bioscience Innovation Science grant from the state of Nebraska in 2019 where Srivastava is working with the University of Nebraska at Kearney to develop a disinfectant that is both effective and safe for human skin.

Bennett says, “Rakesh and his team at Innovative Prosthetics & Orthotics have done an outstanding job in growing the company, providing insight to the industry, and devising innovative ways to adapt prosthetic devices in the market. He is truly making an impact in improving the quality of life of amputees and prosthetic and orthotic users. Rakesh’s giving spirit of improving his community of Hastings and helping to open prosthetic clinics in India further solidifies his character and exemplifies remarkable qualities of an entrepreneur.”

Srivastava is not just a successful business owner – he also plays a strong role in community development in both Hastings and his native India. He is currently a planning commissioner for the City of Hastings, serves on the Board of Directors for the Mary Lanning Healthcare Foundation in Hastings, and is the founding president for the Tri-City Dharmic Center which seeks to accommodate the area’s growing Hindu population. He has helped four companies in India to set up prosthetic and orthotic clinics, and currently serves as the chairman for the Voice of Differently Abled (VODA) in New Delhi, India.

Like other small business owners, the corona virus pandemic in spring of 2020 both caught Srivastava by surprise and had a negative impact on his small business. “I’m very passionate about my business and what I do, and when this pandemic happened COVID affected us a lot. Elective surgeries were closed, hospitals were reserving beds for COVID patients, and since we are a referral service our numbers went down to nothing.” For Srivastava, shutting down his business was not an option. He turned to the Bank of Doniphan to apply for an SBA-backed Paycheck Protection Program loan. Srivastava says, “We got the PPP notification and it was like an angel sent to our small business. It gave me a cushion to stand back up again. It really saved us from having to shut down the business, because I couldn’t afford [to keep it running] after 3-4 months. We had to pay vendors, rent, and we just moved into a brand new facility with the mortgage to be paid and no income.” The coronavirus pandemic continues on, but thanks to his determination and the PPP loan, Srivastava is back up to 70-75% of his normal operations.

Srivastava’s sheer determination to succeed paid off in other ways, too. His small business growth, job creation and overall success coupled with his community advocacy and resilience led him to be named the SBA Nebraska Small Business Person of the Year for 2020. “I am excited to recognize Rakesh Srivastava as the Nebraska state winner,” says Leon Milobar, District Director of the SBA Nebraska District Office. “Small businesses are the life blood of Nebraska’s economy, and Small Business Week is a wonderful opportunity to recognize the hard work companies like Innovative Prosthetics & Orthotics perform in our local communities.”