Hi everyone! I am Adam Kaplan, a podiatrist and the founder of Arcus Orthotics. I started Arcus about 6 months ago on a mission to create a true custom orthotic, as well as give back to the diabetic community. We mold and create true custom orthotics, designed specifically for your unique feet. We wanted the user experience to be both quick and seamless which is why we allow you to help design your orthotics straight from the comfort of your own home. By focusing on essentially one product, we can tailor it to each individual’s diagnosis and needs.
Our three simple steps include using a molding box to create molds of your feet, filling out a customer profile, and shipping the molding box back to our factory. I believe, especially as a podiatrist, that you should walk before you run, but do so while taking risks. Since our inception, we have grown both cautiously and aggressively.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
My father began his podiatry practice after graduating with a degree from pharmacy school followed by a degree from podiatry school at the top of his class. He began the practice with my mother, with barely any savings and my sister on the way. I honestly never thought much about him being an entrepreneur until now.
Find ways to promote yourself that don’t necessarily involve money and make sure your price point is spot on with the market and competition so you don’t need to re-work your strategy a few months in.
I guess you could say I followed in my father’s ‘footsteps’ when deciding to study podiatry at a young age. I received my DPM (doctor of podiatric medicine) degree from the New York School of Podiatric Medicine and spent the next three years completing the residency program at St. Barnabas Medical Center in New Jersey. Following residency, I joined my father in practice in 2016 and have been practicing alongside him ever since.
Our practice is still family-run, with my mother handling the front desk. As you can imagine things were a bit antiquated when I joined. Right away and not without some push back I got to work on modernizing the business. I had the technology systems upgraded, transitioned the company to almost completely paperless, and began working on new customer acquisition strategies including SEO and Facebook ads. I ramped up our google and yelp reviews by encouraging patients to do reviews right here in the office at a designated workstation, and started expanding our patient base by working at nursing homes, hospices, wound care centers, and several local hospitals.
During the previous 4 years in practice before I launched my company three things constantly stood out in my mind, all of which became key factors in how Arcus came to be.
- Many of my patients have complained about over-the-counter orthotics and how they have done more to worsen their problems than resolving them.
- Many patients’ insurance carriers don’t cover custom orthotics prescribed by a podiatrist (including Medicare).
- I was constantly witnessing the debilitating impact of diabetes on my patients first-hand.
I wanted to find a way to fill this gap within the industry and make a difference at the same time. I planned to create a company that covered all three issues. Arcus would be completely custom to resolve every patient’s unique diagnoses, our price would be 2-3x less than out-of-pocket costs, and Arcus Orthotics would donate a percentage of all proceeds to the American Diabetes Association.
At the time and currently, I am working 6 days a week between my practice and other facilities. I was able to put aside enough money to cover basic startup costs including hiring a company to create and manage our website, a few months of SEO, Google ads, social media ads, the manufacturing costs of producing samples of the final product, and having professional photos and videos made. I was certainly faced with doubt, the notion that I would be wasting my own money and that I didn’t have what it took to start a business, as my only previous business experience was selling blow-up guitars door to door the day after attending my friends’ bar-mitzvahs. But after 6 months of working nights and weekends alongside my wife to get everything in place, we were ready to launch Arcus and fill a gap within the medical device and health industry.
Describe the process of launching the business.
The lingering idea in the back of my head finally culminated on the day of my wife’s baby shower, don’t ask me why! I spent that whole night on the phone with my mentor, a close and very successful friend who had begun his own business a few years prior. I ran the idea by him, included some quick numbers and data I had found online, and tried to feel him out. He liked it - and that was the only push I needed. I created a google doc of all of the companies that could be seen as potential competitors, researched what they were doing, and how they came to be, their price points, and most importantly, what they lacked.
I started looking at market data and asking myself questions, how big was the orthotic market? How big was the CUSTOM orthotic market? How much of the population has insurance that does not cover the cost of orthotics? Would there be a big enough gap for me to fill?
I then began browsing other startup websites, what did their sites look like, how did they make me feel, how would I want my future site to look? What would a good name be for the company?
The next and ultimately most important step at the time was to contact the manufacturer I had in mind. The manufacturing process would be a huge factor in my business, and I needed one that I trusted completely. To my luck, the manufacturer was on board right away and was ready to press the start button. We hashed out a contract and each got to work on the next steps. I used 99designs to help create a logo, I found a trusted company to create, design, and manage my website, and my wife and I spent months going over the content, making sure to include as much information as possible, but being sure not to overwhelm the customer.
The manufacturer got to work on designing and creating molding boxes and material samples as well as printing informational pamphlets that would be shipped along with the boxes. Once our samples were ready we hired a photographer to take product shots as well as shots of the manufacturing process to show the craftsmanship that goes into each orthotic. We also shot videos that were uploaded to Vimeo and Youtube that showcase the product, explain how the process works, and also include how-to tutorials for molding and wearing the final product.
Once the site was fully functioning we sent an email to Friends and Family offering a discount as a way to get out the word of mouth. We started social media, posting on Instagram, Facebook (our key audience), and Twitter. Soon thereafter my wife worked with Facebook consulting to learn about Facebook and Instagram ads, how to create, analyze, and choose the best audience for our business. We most recently did a Gleam Sweepstakes, which have been published in Footwear News and have many articles currently in the works. We were also featured on Well+Good. We believe the key is getting our name out there so we are currently pushing for big publications to write about us, our product, and our process. The more our name comes up on trusted and established sites, the more comfortable the customer will be with our product and price point.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Our operations are running smoothly and efficiently. Within hours of receiving an order, we can ship out the molding box which is received by the customer within 2 days. Once we receive the molding box back in our processing department our turnaround time is 2 weeks or less. Ad costs are quite low and we have been spending most of our budget on Facebook after trying out other avenues. We plan to run more promotions to entice the customer and focus on retargeting ads. SEO proved to be very expensive and less profitable, therefore we have decided to cut those costs for now as we try to increase our awareness in other ways.
At this time there are no plans to expand into new product lines as custom orthotics would be the bread and butter for us either way. We do offer insurance for our product which can be purchased on our website as an add-on during checkout.
Right now we ship to the 48 continental states, if we continue receiving impressions from HI and AK we may consider adding those down the line. We pride ourselves on our quick turnaround and for that reason would like to keep shipments all within the US for now.
Our short-term goals are to improve the site to reduce bounce rate, including having a call to action on top of the landing page which we are currently working on. One of our long-term goals is to gain repeat customers. We offer incentives for purchasing a 2nd or even 3rd pair for use in multiple types of shoes. For example, a customer may buy a pair for running, but decide they want them for their work shoes as well. Lastly, we plan to expand into brick and mortar by establishing relationships with footwear retailers who can offer our product alongside theirs.
I have definitely made mistakes, for example, spending too much of my budget upfront on SEO and Google ads when we didn’t even have much of an online presence. I had to learn and am still learning a lot about marketing and advertising. I have targeted too broad of a group, too narrow of a group, and have had to do a lot of A/B testing to get it right, and I am still tweaking it to this day. I also underestimated the overall time involved in starting a business while also having a family and working full time at my practice.
Lastly, of course, the current pandemic is out of my control and has slowed down potential growth. The process of having samples made, photographing our product, and filming videos were delayed for months. At times the factory even had to be shut down due to an outbreak. A lot of our marketing efforts were delayed as well as I planned to market in person at events such as marathons and fitness competitions. However, this gave us more time to focus on our current online strategy which is what we really needed.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
Our e-commerce platform is operated by Woocommerce which has been very straightforward and easy to navigate, especially as a novice.
SEO, Google ads, and other social media marketing are done through our marketing solutions company here in New Jersey.
We are using Mailchimp to send automated emails to our customers for order receipts, product shipment updates, feedback requests, and discount reminders.
Ring Central is a great app we chose for customer service. If the factory or I am unavailable it will automatically ring a subsequent person’s phone to ensure we don’t miss calls.
For targeted advertising, we are using Facebook and Instagram with a focus on Facebook as our demographic steers a little older with a large focus on 65+. We also make sure to maintain a presence on Twitter and utilize Gleam for sweepstakes.
Customers are prompted to review their purchase 6 weeks after receiving the final product and these will appear on our website, Google and Facebook.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
The first book I purchased when toying with the idea of Arcus was TRACTION: How Any Startup Can Achieve Explosive Customer Growth. I read it front to back several times and then made my wife read it. I made a list of questions I had about startups, marketing, advertising, customer acquisition and found relevant blogs and articles online. While these resources were extremely valuable, I realized that they became more valuable once I really had a better idea of my business and where I was going. I learned a lot, but until it was truly applied, it didn’t seem to have as much significance. I continue re-reading these articles to this day.
I also listen to the podcast ‘How I Built This’ with Ruy Gaz on NPR which tells the stories of many successful companies and how they got started. It offers entrepreneurial insights directly from the founders themselves.
Another valuable resource that my wife capitalized on is Facebook and Microsoft advertising consulting sessions. These have proven to be very beneficial for us, especially having had no prior experience. I definitely recommend this to anyone starting in the ad space.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?
My top tip is, do your research, a lot of research, establish a realistic budget, talk to people either within the industry or that have done this themselves before. Get a real grasp of what this is going to take. The more information, the better.
Money goes quickly, especially in our case when it comes to advertising. Find ways to promote yourself that don’t necessarily involve money and make sure your price point is spot on with the market and competition so you don’t need to re-work your strategy a few months in.
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