Physiotherapist Bart de Vries talks about leaving his career behind to start a standing desk company and why headaches often plague us at work.
What does your business do?
Over the last four years Limber has been busy working to design a personal workspace system, that makes movement easy and intuitive, because there are a number of challenges with standing desks and workspace in general.
We launched Limber earlier this year, but began tinkering with the idea years ago when I was a practising physiotherapist. We've been through 24 different prototypes desks, which have been developed alongside Xero, Trade Me and Dev Academy facility to understand what corporate needs are. We're based in Wellington, where we make our desks, from wood imported from Finland. We wanted to allow people to move from sitting at their desk to standing easily, and take the barriers to movement away in an ergonomic way. We're sitting in office environments and experiencing loss in creativity, problem solving capacity, and long term health impacts.
What was the motivation for starting it?
I was a physio, seeing so many people in pain, sore and injured from working in a fixed position, and I shifted into the business world wanting to look for preventative solutions and jump on the preventative end of healthcare. Funnily enough I found myself at a laptop and working long hours from fixed positions and I noticed myself getting the same thing; I started getting headaches and the same issues.
When looking around, and at the current solutions on the market, I though there was room for improvement, so I pulled a group of engineers and designers together and we started coming up with a new solution. I'm no longer a practising physio and now work on Limber full time, since about three months ago. Normal desks have been around for years, structured off an old army standard for the 6ft male, which suits about five per cent of people. The majority of us are working from desks which are just not meant for our bodies. I wanted to make a desk that made making movement quick and easy.
How big is your team?
There are four of us. I'm the key full time person and then we have two people in the workshop that are part time, and a person working part time in marketing.
Who and what organisations are using Limber desks?
A number of people and organisations are using the desks around the country, the most notable is Xero, and there's places like Human Kind, a HR employment experience company, and web development school Dev Academy. We've got over 100 people in the tech world that are using them. We want to see tech companies take this on, and companies that are looking to create a great employee experience.
What's next for Limber?
The future for us is looking at how we can lead a massive transition in how workplaces are designed and structured, and we've got a branch of other pieces to the puzzle as to how the future workspace will look, which we're working on. We're looking at the future of couches and seating areas, and how to integrate movement and physical activity into workspaces in a natural way. There's plenty of new products that we're prototyping at the moment which we unfortunately can't talk about.
What's your focus for the rest of the year?
Educating Kiwis about the benefits of movement and why movement is so important in our lives, particularly the link between making good decisions, solving complex challenges and coming up with innovative solutions, and how moving regularly - even in small ways - has huge impacts on our physiology. If we can reflect our physiology at the space we work we can put ourselves in a physiological state and have better outcomes at work.
Have you always wanted to run your own business?
I grew up with entrepreneurs, both my mother and father started their own businesses, they we're both health professionals as well, therapists. I took the therapist route originally and really loved it. I never put two and two together and we never talked about business over the table but it was once I got to a point in my physiotherapy career about eight years that I saw this huge divide between.
I played professional hockey for a few years and was a physio for high-performance athletes - Olympic athletes, MBA athletes, professional cricketers and basketballers - and I saw how current research was being utilised. When I shifted and was working with people returning to work and with chronic pain, I saw that there was a massive gap with what was being utilised in workplaces. Six years ago I crossed over my thinking, wondering how we could connect leading research that is being so well utilised in sports environment to where people are working - and spending the majority of our productive lives.
What advice do you give to people who want to start their own business?
Find something that you really care about, if there's no purpose behind why you're doing it's hard to continue long term. Get enough sleep, and do some exercise.