When you hear that a successful company got its start in a basement or garage, there’s likely a driven entrepreneur behind the business. That’s the case for Shaun Linderbaum and why he is being recognized by Junior Achievement as the Cedar Valley’s 2018 Young Entrepreneur.
Shaun initially became involved with his company, BraceAbility, as a consultant and purchased it shortly after it was launched in 2012. He ran the fledgling operation out of the basement in his home he shared with his then-fiancée, Kendra Smith, who later joined the business to manage marketing and merchandising.
As an online retailer of orthopedic braces, Shaun recognized a need and created a business niche developing and selling plus-sized braces. Sales are conducted over the company website, BraceAbility.com, as well as on Amazon.
An opportunity to operate out of the business incubator at the University of Northern Iowa’s Business and Community Services building moved the company out of the basement and onto the UNI campus for a year. After another year of success, BraceAbility was able to move into a second-level office at Fourth and Main streets in Cedar Falls. Continued growth has led to an expansion and the refurbishing of another downtown property at 115 E. Second St., and BraceAbility moved into that location in the spring of 2018.
During its first year of operation, BraceAbility sold approximately 5,000 braces. Growth was steady and impressive over the next several years, with the business selling 165,000 braces in 2017. BraceAbility is now on pace to sell a quarter million braces in 2018 and credits their strong customer relationships for their significant growth by constantly surveying and receiving feedback from their constituents.
Today, BraceAbility employs 25 people and Shaun is working to expand his direct-to-consumer retail brand internationally. BraceAbility also takes a modern approach regarding its employees – providing flexibility so team members can enjoy family time, prioritize health and well-being, and pursue their passions and hobbies.
For customers, BraceAbility enables them to find the right product that will help relieve their pain, make them feel comfortable, confident, and, most importantly, allow them to get back to their regular lifestyle.
Shaun received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in management information systems and had previously worked in that sector. “None of my education prepared me for being an entrepreneur,” he told the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier. “When I was in school, e-commerce wasn’t a thing. The success I have had in business is mostly attributable to continued learning.”
Derek Balsley, a colleague of Shaun’s, said that, “Shaun shares the belief that business is a way to impact society and people, both in the customers they serve, and the employees they hire. He can see opportunities; problems in the marketplace, he sees the customers who have pain points he can solve.”
Shaun is a native of Cresco and came to the Cedar Valley as a college student in 1996. He and Kendra were married last year, and along with two children, Sam and Kyle, they reside in Cedar Falls.