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Leaving the Corporate Ladder

Jonathan Haisman, 52, left a corporate career to start a company specialising in furniture for improved health. He discusses the rewards and challenges.

Jonathan Haisman, 52, living in Providence RI, recently decided to get off the corporate ladder and help start a company that is all about craft and making something helpful.

“I love being an entrepreneur”

Why are you doing this?

I love being an entrepreneur; being in control of my day and schedule allows me to balance work/travel/family life. I still feel pressure for results but it’s different when I am the one setting the targets. I really enjoy working with other entrepreneurs and small business owners, too; the experiences seem more efficient and genuine.

What was your previous career?

I worked for orthopedic device companies for approximately 20 years in sales, marketing and product development. I left partly because of frustration with repeated company acquisition and not enjoying being lost in the huge companies that resulted from acquisition. Travel demands were a big factor in my career change, too. We have 3 kids and I didn’t want to be traveling for 2 weeks per month.

Highs and Lows

How does it feel doing at startup vs working for a company?

I enjoy the variety of working for a small startup. Getting to do everything from design, development, manufacture and sales/marketing is really stimulating and challenging. Funding ourselves has been really challenging though, as the product development cycle has been longer than expected and we have had to fund all this ourselves from personal savings.

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How does it feel making something with your hands?

Making something with my hands is really satisfying. I’ve always been a bit of a “tinkerer” and the satisfaction of seeing something that I’ve made at the end of the day is really rewarding. Compared to never-ending spreadsheet refinement of the corporate world, I’m a lot happier now. That said, some of the manufacturing tasks like sanding and cutting foam get rather mundane.

Skill-Building

Have you had to learn any new skills?

Luckily, my business partner has the engineering and design experience that we need but my experience briefing engineers and working with them has also been very handy. Some of the skills necessary for manufacture and assembly are so specific that we both just had to learn them and figure them out. 

My partner John working on a chair.

Are you keeping a day job while you do the new venture?

Both my partner John and I imagined doing some side work to help fund this but neither of us have had other jobs since late 2018. We have just been too busy with Tilt Active.

Local Manufacturing

Where are you manufacturing and why?

All our manufacturing is local. Our metal fabricator is in Swansea, MA (PGL Compugard) and our wood parts are CNC’d by Ideal Grain who are based in the same mill building at 80 Fountain St. All the rest of production and assembly, including the wood finishing and cushion manufacture, is done by us, by hand. We wanted to make the product locally to support local companies and it was also important for us to have local contact for continued product development.

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How long was the product development process?

John started the patent process several years ago and had the patent granted in 2017. He and I started talking about wider applications for the design in 2018 and formed a company then. We first had a Tilt Active Lever Rocking Chair for sale in late November 2019.

What are the biggest challenges you have faced so far?

We have had so many challenges so far, apart from the obvious financial ones but deciding to go through a re-design during the spring in 2019 was particularly tough as we were close to having the product ready for sale. 

Promoting Core Health

What is your ambition for the company?

Our ambition for the company is to make a meaningful change to individual health and well-being by getting people to engage their core, improve their balance and heighten proprioception. Improvements in core strength and balance-keeping function can reduce some of the world’s largest causes of disability such as back pain and falls. We have plans for research in the areas of back pain, balance and vestibular stimulation/memory function planned for 2020.

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David Stewart
David Stewart
David is the founder and face of AGEIST. He is an expert on, and a passionate champion of the emerging global over-50 lifestyle. A dynamic speaker, he is available for panels, keynotes and informational talks at david@agei.st.

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