Denville—If you found that a $20 product had the ability to lessen or even eliminate chronic or acute low back pain, would you buy it? A company called Top Dog Direct thinks so. To that end, they’ve licensed the BeActive Brace, a soft trigger point compression brace worn just below the knee that claims to ease low back pain that was invented by Teaneck native Akiva Shmidman, a physical therapist who now lives in Baltimore.
Last week, Shmidman was on the set of a commercial production in Denville, New Jersey as his product was displayed, modeled, and otherwise shown off to its best advantage. In an interview with JLBC, he explained that he’s been working on this product’s development for the past eight or nine years, and patented it last year. (He’s also working on two other inventions: one involving runner’s knee, and the other cold therapy.)
Shmidman, who has a master’s in physical therapy and practices in the sports medicine field, explained that the BeActive Brace grew out of his experience treating patients.
“I’m a physical therapist in a clinical setting where many of my patients have back pain. I found that compression on a specific place on the calf muscle helps relieve lower back pain. The product works on that trigger point, to compress that muscle,” Shmidman said.
“It’s designed to be worn as you need it, during exercise, during the day, or even for sleep. Anyone with low back pain, radiating pain in the lower legs, and women who are pregnant with sciatica or low back related pain or even joint dysfunction,” he said, can find the product useful.
Compression or manipulation of trigger points through physical therapy is an oft-used method by therapists and physiatrists to relieve pain associated with muscular aches, as opposed to pain with neurological involvement. Trigger point therapy is said to assist with the redevelopment of muscles and/or can often restore motion to joints.
Shmidman explained that he produced and marketed the brace at first on his own, but he “got to a certain point and could only go so much further with it. I really wanted it to have a more global effect,” he said.
He then pitched the BeActive Brace to Pennsylvania-based Top Dog Direct at a Speed Pitch event in Philadelphia last year. According to company representatives, one of the executives listening to the pitch has had recurrent low back pain and tried the brace on during the pitch with immediate results. Shmidman licensed the product to the company for a fee, and will now receive royalties based on sales.
“My risk is gone; they believe in the product, and they are now going to put their dollars behind it,” Shmidman said.
Bill McAlister, Top Dog Direct’s president, also spoke to JLBC about the procedure of bringing Shmidman’s product to market. He explained that his company will initially spend between $100,000 and $200,000 to produce and market several two-minute commercials, and then will begin airing them on cable television to encourage direct mail orders.
McAlister explained that taking over a product like this is something that he and his company have a lot of experience doing. Having started his career with QVC, McAlister has sold “as seen on TV” products for the past quarter century, also using the Home Shopping Network, where he marketed some of the most successful products in its history. “We’ve sold everything from mops to sunglasses to hair extensions,” he explained. Top Dog Direct has achieved $2 billion in sales since 2008, when they went into business, he said. Top Dog Direct is one of only seven or eight companies in the United States that focuses on bringing products to the direct mail market.
The BeActive Brace follows Top Dog Direct’s first success of Tan Perfect, which was followed by Urine Gone, Mighty Putty, Mighty Mendit, Smart Mop, Strap Perfect, Mighty Fixit, Hot Booties, Fast Brite, Stream Clean, Tag Away, Night View NV, and the Instant Trainer Leash.
McAlister explained that many inventors come to the company with only a drawing of their idea, but because Shmidman came to them with approximately 500 products already in the marketplace, it showed he already was reaching customers who could also provide feedback if necessary.
Top Dog Direct will start out by buying another 2,000 to 3,000 products and marketing them on approximately five to 10 cable television stations with two different two-minute commercials. “As the products are airing, we can see how many people are on the phone buying it,” he said. This serves as an effective test market, he said. After that, they will make further plans.
McAlister wanted to encourage any budding inventors to be in touch with his company if they have useful ideas like Shmidman’s BeActive Brace. “Eighty percent of what we do is look for cool products that need marketing. Everybody you know has thought about an invention in his lifetime. Most do nothing about it.”
“All they have to do is go to our website, and we are usually able to respond in one to two business days. If we can’t personally help the people, we will give them suggestions, like recommending mail order, or tell them if their product is already on the market,” McAlister said.
Shmidman is a son of Rabbi Michael and Linda Shmidman of Teaneck; Rabbi Shmidman formerly served as rabbi of Congregation Keter Torah and is currently dean of Touro College’s Graduate program in Jewish Studies. Akiva went to school locally at YNJ and TABC, and did his graduate work at Touro College. He is a father of six.
By Elizabeth Kratz