Ed Robertson – Founder of Badger Braces
Ed Robertson, the founder of Badger Braces, LLC, is an alumnus of the very first BTE Bootcamp. Robertson has worked as a physical therapist for the past 26 years, the last 20 at Pullman Regional Hospital, and taught Biomechanics at Washington State University for 12 years.
Through his work, Robertson was inspired to try to fix the most common sports injury across the board: the ankle sprain. After buying, reassembling, and modifying an ankle brace he had found at a local sports supply store, the prototype for the Badger Brace was born.
It was not until five years later when Robertson attended BTE Bootcamp that his idea became an entrepreneurial reality. “My experience with BTE Bootcamp changed my life forever. It took me from a prototype to a product in a box in 6 months. I left BTE Bootcamp with a business plan, an attorney, an accountant, and a banker. What astounded me was the exposure to resources and people that had been in this community the whole time and I didn’t even know they existed.” said Robertson.
After his experience with the entrepreneurial community on the Palouse, Robertson went on to recruit sponsors for BTE Bootcamp and become a board member of Palouse Knowledge Corridor. He continues to be dedicated to bringing economic growth to our community through his various involvements, as well as keeping production local:
“My hope for Badger Braces is to provide more jobs on the Palouse, especially in Colton. Just a couple new jobs make a huge difference in such a small community. New businesses, big or small, add to the biodiversity of the business ecology on the Palouse… It’s amazing how willing people are to help me out. That is one of the reasons I felt compelled to continue to participate in the Boot Camp as a guest speaker as well as a Board Member on the Palouse Knowledge Corridor.”
Read more about Ed Robertson’s mission below.
The Story of Badger Braces, LLC
A letter by Ed Robertson about his experience as an entrepreneur on the Palouse.
I have been a physical therapist for 26 years. I’ve also played and coached basketball nearly my entire life. During that time I have seen countless ankle injuries. Despite ankle taping and the myriad braces on the market, ankle sprains remain the single most common sports injury, even in the NFL and NBA. About a decade ago, I was teaching Biomechanics at WSU and every semester we talk about ankle injuries with many of the prospective Athletic Trainers in class. One day I decided to take a fresh look at the mechanism of injury, the ligaments involved, and ask the question, “Why doesn’t taping and bracing work very well?” I discovered that ankle taping has been around since 1895 and virtually every brace on the market was trying to replicate something that hasn’t changed much since before Penicillin.
I simply drew from my knowledge of Physical Therapy and my experience in treating foot and ankle patients, my experience in sports, and knowledge of biomechanics and built a prototype. I went to Big 5, bought an ankle brace, cut it apart and re-sewed it the way I thought it should be, added a foot orthotic, and wore it to the gym. And it worked!
Not knowing what to do next with the prototype, I put it under my desk…for about 5 years. That’s where it stayed until a conversation with Scott Adams, CEO of Pullman Regional Hospital about innovation in healthcare. It just so happened he had received a brochure for PKC’s first ever Be the Entrepreneur Bootcamp. A core value of PRH is supporting innovation. The hospital sponsored my attendance in hopes that what I learned I could bring back to the hospital to help guide the efforts of further innovation in healthcare.
My experience with BTE Bootcamp changed my life forever. It took me from a prototype to a product in a box in 6 months. I left BTE Bootcamp with a business plan, an attorney, an accountant, and a banker. What astounded me was the exposure to resources and people that had been in this community the whole time and I didn’t even know they existed. The Palouse is unique in the resources that are at our fingertips, from the resources available through our two land-grant universities, to other successful entrepreneurs, manufacturing services and technical resources, and dedicated government agencies. Not only that, BTE Bootcamp gave me the courage and support to move forward. Before BTE Bootcamp I couldn’t even spell Entrepreneur, now I am one.
Although overall sales are seeing slow, steady growth, Badger Braces have been sold in 18 states and Canada and every Amazon review is a 5-star review.
I felt so strongly about my experience at BTE Bootcamp and the mission of the PKC, I encouraged the hospital to become a major sponsor the following year and helped several fellow employees in their innovation efforts.
My Goals For Badger Braces
My goals for Badger Braces have never been financial, I started my company to make a difference. My hope is that if it makes a difference, it will make a dollar. But to me the dollar is kind of like Oxygen, it’s necessary for my survival but it’s not why I live. The skills and concepts I learned in BTE Bootcamp have certainly improved my business acumen to improve the chances of Badger Braces being around to help more people.
One particular concept that has proven helpful is the pivot. The direction and path I thought I would go down has required many such pivots. Badger Braces would likely have stalled out as I hit so many unforeseen barriers, but knowing how and when to pivot has kept the project alive and moving forward.
My hope for Badger Braces is to provide more jobs on the Palouse, especially in Colton. Just a couple new jobs make a huge difference in such a small community. New businesses, big or small, add to the biodiversity of the business ecology on the Palouse. If everything evolves around the universities and Walmart, that’s not a healthy business environment.
I am incredibly humbled by the support from people in Colton and a variety of other sources on the Palouse. I continue to get advice, feedback, and input from the PKC and BTE Bootcamp staff and fellow alumni. It’s amazing how willing people are to help me out. That is one of the reasons I felt compelled to continue to participate in the Boot Camp as a guest speaker as well as a Board Member on the Palouse Knowledge Corridor. The fruits of the labors of the PKC and the Boot Camp go far beyond just the few fledgling companies that participate. As many of those companies take root on the Palouse, that means more families stay here, more kids in schools, more people in church on Sunday, more people shopping locally. The rising tide floats all boats.
I look forward to continuing to do business on the Palouse for many years to come, and giving back to the community that helped me get to where I am today.