The Lavin Lift Strap is a classic example of an invention born out of necessity that evolved into a growing small business based in downtown Ypsilanti.
Donna Gilkey-Lavin explains the company got its start when her father-in-law reached the end of his life. The family didn't want to put him into a nursing home and instead decided to take care of him at home. That meant overcoming some big challenges.
"This was developed out of need," Gilkey-Lavin says. "His father was a very large man with Alzheimer’s who had become incontinent."
It took three to four people to lift and clean him after a visit to the bathroom. The first version of the Lavin Lift Strap made it easy for a single person to perform the job. The technology acts as a mini crane that helps raise the patient's legs or entire lower half off the bed. The family turned the invention into a product and began selling it to people and companies specializing in elder care. Sales mostly came through word-of-mouth and the firm’s website.
Lavin Lift Strap
reached out to Ann Arbor SPARK
a little more than a year ago. The small business accelerator helped the company improve its marketing strategy, overhaul its website to better facilitate sales, apply for patents and gave it an office in the SPARK East
incubator in downtown Ypsilanti. SPARK East also helped it develop more iterations of the lift strap, including a disposable version. Check out videos of the different products here
"The product has really morphed in the last year and a half," Gilkey-Lavin says.
That helped the company expand its customer base and spike its sales over the last year. It is on target for a 65 percent jump in revenues in 2013, and it has hired 10 people over the last 18 months. It now sells the Lavin Lift Strap to hospice centers, home healthcare centers and other sorts of medical facilities. The firm is looking to begin delivering its products to larger healthcare institutions next year.
Ann Arbor SPARK helped make that possible by showing the company how to mass market its product and establish a dealer network. The product has gained so much notice that Amazon.com came knocking, asking if it could sell the product through its website.
"They (Ann Arbor SPARK) were instrumental in giving a small company like us the resources we need," Gilkey-Lavin says.
Source: Donna Gilkey-Lavin, vice president of sales & marketing for Lavin Lift Strap
Writer: Jon Zemke
Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.