We mean it when we say “ATI employs the best of the best”. Such is the case with Chad Franche PT, DPT, United States Air Force (USAF) veteran, and founder of the TherRex Balance Board. What initially started as an idea rooted from a practicum as a graduate student has now evolved into a game-changing product that is revolutionizing the balance board industry.
As someone who grew up wanting to make a difference in the lives of others, Chad felt the health and fitness industry needed a balance board that could truly facilitate all levels of motion without sacrifice. While in rotation at an outpatient clinic, Chad discovered that all the current balance boards took on a hemispherical shape on the bottom. But while in a standing position, current boards give you more distance to shift your weight side to side (frontal plane) than front to back motion (sagittal plane). With this in mind Chad knew he could introduce a product with a base that would mimic this level of movement, but allow for full ankle range of motion without having to dismount from the board.
Fast forward a few years and this very idea was brought to life through the TherRex Board, which resembles a football shape to mimic the movement addressed above. The football shape also replicates the movement attained by a BAPS board (BioMechanical Ankle Platform System) in that it provides inward rotation of the ankle throughout flexion, but through a greater range of motion, which allows for the ankle to be exercised in the position sprains occur.
Chad originally intended for the board to be a pediatric balance board with an interactive gaming component, but after seeing the potential the football shape could provide, it was clear he needed to take this product to the next level.
“I knew with the football shaped base, if the board were to be used in the plank or seated positions there would be two different intensities at which exercises could be performed,” said Chad. “The board would just have to be turned 90 degrees to make it easier or harder (the shorter arc of the football shape is less stable and higher difficulty than the longer more stable arc). I added a pair of handles at the ends of each arc and a flat edge lateral to the handles that projects underneath the board and stops it so a person’s fingers won’t get pinched against the ground. The flat edge also provides a stable surface for the board to be mounted and dismounted. Other balance boards with a round platform wobble against the ground and make it difficult to mount/dismount.”
With the product officially hitting the market a few months back, we met up with Chad to hear how things are going, see what’s next for him and the brand and get his perspective on this new adventure.
Tell us a little about yourself
After high school, I spent four years serving in the USAF before pursuing a full-time education. After separating from the USAF, I finished my undergrad then went on to graduate from the physical therapy program at Rosalind Franklin University in 2014. I then worked at a privately owned outpatient clinic for some time before finding my place with ATI, where I’ve been for about two years.
I aspire to grow TherRex into a premiere physical therapy and fitness equipment company that is inspired by research and clinical knowledge. As physical therapists, we are movement experts, so I want to utilize that education to innovate new equipment that will improve the function of the person using it.
Was entrepreneurship a new adventure for you?
Entrepreneurship is a new adventure for me, but I fortunately grew up around it through my dad, who happens to be an inventor and entrepreneur having independently sold his product for a number of years. He played a big role in helping me start this business by assisting with developing the first prototypes – sometimes in below freezing temps in his garage.
I’ve always enjoyed working as a physical therapist for ATI, but entrepreneurship is something I’m as equally passionate about. There’s a lot of excitement and freedom that comes with entrepreneurship, and with that also comes risk, but if you’re going to place a bet on someone, why not bet on yourself?
Who is the TherRex balance board intended for?
Our customers are primarily outpatient PT clinics, but we are also targeting gyms (Formula Fitness Club in Chicago as our most recent), schools, and direct to consumer. Ultimately, the TherRex board benefits anyone with a fitness goal or those rehabbing from an injury. Its greatest benefits are in joint stability, core strengthening, and of course balance. I actually use it each night as part of my daily workout routine.
Were there any challenges that you had to overcome during the development/strategy stages?
The biggest challenge was having to redesign the board with the manufacturer from the prototype to the final design on their 3D design program. The geometry of the balance board is crucial to the function, so it had to be extremely precise. We spent many hours over the course of several weeks measuring and re-measuring every aspect of the board to make sure we got it right. The prototype was 26-separate pieces of wood glued and screwed together, but the final design had to be one piece and structurally sound to support a person. A lot of time went into it, but we got it right - the TherRex can support more than 1,000lbs! You can actually park a car on the board and it won’t give – we have the photo to back it.
From idea conception to product launch, how long did the process take and what key takeaways did you come across?
From product conception to launch, the process took three years. The most important thing I’ve learned through the journey is to invite the right people to be part of it. My business partner, who also happens to be my cousin, has a strong background in finance and private equity. His professional experience brings a lot of strengths to the business, but the greatest value is his drive and tenacity. These are qualities in which I believe are invaluable for any business to strive, without them, we wouldn’t be where we are now.
What’s next for the brand? Any new products on the horizon?
On the product side, I’m always thinking of the next idea and I have a couple that I’d like to pursue, however, I’m not quite ready to start the entire process over. It’s been a long road! Outside of product development, we are focusing on is establishing the brand as a research- and science-based resource of clinical and fitness info through our blog and social channels, which we are very active on, so check us out.
What advice would you give others wanting to introduce a new product or idea?
Just go for it! Nobody wants to look back on their life and wonder, “what if?”, but if you do go for it, you have to be all in, you can’t just “kind of” go for it. It’s not enough to chase your dreams, you have to hunt them down! Imagine if the leaders at ATI didn’t go for it? The brand wouldn’t be where it’s at today as the top PT provider around.
For more information on TherRex Balance Board, please visit the official TherRex Balance Board website.