Entrepreneur braces for “wild ride” with fast-growing venture

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Cinde Waller

Cinde Waller faces an enviable challenge for an entrepreneur managing a startup: thinking big enough to keep up with her rapidly growing venture.

Less than two years after launching TempOrthotics, Waller and her team have developed three types of medical braces, revamped marketing strategies and started setting up distribution channels.

Waller’s goals for 2013 include securing funding to expand distribution internationally even while growing domestic sales. “Keep up our momentum is what I hope to do,” she said.

Meanwhile, awards and membership in an organization that promotes health care innovation have brought additional attention to Waller and her company.

“It’s been a wild ride,” said Waller, president and chief executive officer of TempOrthotics in Grand Junction.

That ride began in 2007, when Waller was recovering from jaw surgery.

Desperate for relief from pain, she tied a satin ribbon around her head to hold her jaw in place while she slept. To keep the ribbon from slipping off, she tied another piece of ribbon around the back of her head.

Waller improved on her hastily improvised device the next day by purchasing materials a seamstress assembled into a brace that offered both stability as well as a measure of mobility.

Encouraged by doctors and therapists who wanted braces for other patients, Waller subsequently obtained a patent for her invention and launched a company to sell the braces.

Waller said she’s optimistic about the prospects for TempOrthotics because her braces are unique and the potential market large. By one estimate, 10 million people in the United States alone receive treatments for disorders of the jaw for which her braces are specifically designed.

What’s more, Waller knows from personal experience her braces work.

The braces are designed for patients recovering from surgeries involving the temporomandibular joints (TMJ) that connect the lower jaw to the skull. The braces also can be used to provide relief to people afflicted with pain and headaches associated with TMJ disorders, people who wear dental appliances at night and people with sleeping disorders.

A brace branded as the “Stabilizer” is designed for patients who require gentle support, but also the ability to move their jaws. A brace called the “Immobilizer” more securely cradles the jaw for cases in which less movement is desired. A third brace called the “Elevator” is designed for use with devices that treat sleep disorders.

Waller hired ProSafe Products, another Grand Junction company, to manufacture the braces. ProSafe also makes fabric covers and garments for dental, medical and veterinary markets.

Waller said she could have cut costs by outsourcing manufacturing to an overseas company, but remains committed to keeping production local.

“It’s a small sacrifice to keep the jobs here and put people back to work.”

While Waller sells her braces on a retail basis online, she expects to transition to wholesale distribution to doctors, dentists and therapists who prescribe the braces to their patients. She’s contracted with a distributor to sell braces in four states and hopes to soon make similar arrangements for distribution elsewhere in the United States.

Waller said she’s also received inquiries about selling her products internationally and expects to soon receive the certification that will allow her to sell braces in Europe.  For now, though, she’s seeking investors interesting in providing the capital needed to complete national distribution and then take the next step to international sales.

Meanwhile, Waller and her company have garnered additional national and state attention.

Waller won a Woman of the Year award from the National Association of Professional Women. The group offers networking and education opportunities through nearly 400 local chapters. Waller belongs to a Western Slope chapter that meets in Montrose.

Waller also was among the individual nominees selected as finalists for the 2012 Colorado Technology Association Apex awards. The annual awards program recognizes technology leaders and innovators in the state.

In addition, Waller was accepted into the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs. The 4-year-old group brings together inventors, service providers, investors and industry representatives working in the medical field.

Waller credited the growth of TempOrthotics and the attention she’s drawn in large part to the assistance she’s received and the team she’s assembled to help her.

Waller said she’s especially grateful for the help she’s received from the Business Incubator Center in Grand Junction, where she’s a tenant in a program that nurtures startups, as well as from area doctors and dentists who have supported her efforts and recommended her braces.

Waller’s team includes Shawna Grieger, who works for Advertising Strategies in Grand Junction and handles marketing for TempOrthotics.

Grieger said Waller is well ahead of many entrepreneurs who launch startups in thinking beyond the prospects for local sales. “She has come so far in such a short period of time.”

Waller acknowledged her company has grown faster than she had anticipated, but it’s been exciting work to keep up. “It’s challenging thinking big enough.”