Innovation Destination Hartford learned about B2 Products, a Connecticut startup founded by siblings Josh, Chris, and Danielle Beaulieu that’s developing innovative public safety and patient mobility products.
INNOVATION DESTINATION HARTFORD: Tell us a little about each of your backgrounds and why you decided to launch the startup.
Josh has more than 20 years of experience as a firefighter and paramedic. He is currently a Battalion Chief responsible for EMS service delivery in Manchester, CT. Our company’s current product offerings are a direct result of identifying and addressing needs that exist in his profession.
Chris is a Human Resources professional with a Master of Business Administration in venture consulting and an information technology background. He has years of corporate experience in HR analytics and business intelligence. With such experience, he wisely guides our business strategy.
Danielle is a consulting biostatistician/data scientist who is always searching for new ways to drive forward positive public health and safety initiatives through data-driven research and development. She holds a Master of Public Health degree in Epidemiology and is an active data science community leader.
Although this is the first official startup for the three of us, it is clear that we are all very driven by innovative problem-solving and making a positive impact on our communities. This was the perfect venture to combine our complimentary skill sets.
IDH: When and why did you start the company? How did you develop the business concept?
In 2013 Chris and Josh began working on the company’s first product, which is a unique patient-moving device called the Rapid Patient Mover (RPM). This project began after Josh had attended a class on active shooter response. The devices used in the class to move patients were cumbersome at best and were not ideal for that particular environment.
After searching the internet and every emergency medical services (EMS) vendor he could find, Josh did not find a device that was well suited for moving patients in the active shooter environment. Rather than giving up, he and Chris began designing a device that met the need.
The RPM was born after dozens of design changes and lots of practical testing. Josh and Chris thoroughly enjoyed the creative design process and were rewarded with a final product that solved a real-world problem and could potentially save lives. They continued on to design other products for public safety use, following a similar process.
The RPM had obvious potential and thanks to a work contact of Josh’s they were referred to Eric Knight, who was in his first month as Entrepreneur in Residence at Axis901 in Manchester, CT at the time. That meeting proved to be extremely valuable! Eric provided some very timely advice on how to proceed with a new product. He referred us to a patent attorney and gave us some direction on market testing.
In support of our progress with the RPM and two other products in development, we formed our LLC in early 2014. Our intent was to continue on with product development and seek out opportunities to monetize our designs.
We initially licensed two of our product designs before changing direction and marketing our products under our own name, B2 Products, in late 2015. With this change of direction, the company needs changed and we had the opportunity to bring Danielle on board as a third partner to round out our company skill set and drive forward our business through increased marketing and sales channels.
We are a new company with a talented team. We are learning as we go and enjoying the challenges that come with starting a new business.
IDH: Tell us about the products you provide.
We currently specialize in patient handling equipment; products designed to help safely and efficiently move and lift people. Our products are intended for use by healthcare providers and public safety professionals, but certainly have applicability for users in a variety of other environments. Currently, we have three main products on the market: the Rapid Patient Mover (RPM), the Mobility Assistance Sling (MAS), and the Bariatric Patient Mover (BPM).
IDH: How are you building a customer base?
We have found that at this early stage, the most effective way to illustrate the usefulness and value of our products is through direct product demonstrations. Thus, we are primarily growing our initial customer base by exhibiting at industry conferences and in-person connections with decision makers in the Fire-Rescue and EMS communities.
Additionally, we are building our social media presence and taking advantage of these avenues to expand our reach and have explored advertising on industry-specific digital media. Working with a very limited budget, it is very important to us that we spend in areas with the greatest chance for a high return on our investment.
IDH: What’s the biggest challenge your company has faced?
The process of developing a product and then building a business around it has presented us with several challenges. The two most recurring challenges are finding the time to commit to our startup company around our full time jobs and families and being entirely self-funded. It’s a balancing act that can certainly be tricky, but we are enjoying the challenge!
Further, as we transition from product development to sales, we face the challenge of adequate marketing with a limited budget. It’s a great opportunity to get creative with our approach!
IDH: Have you relied on any of Connecticut’s startup resources help to shape your business?
Yes, as stated earlier, we met with Eric Knight as part of the Entrepreneur in Residence program. Also, we successfully competed for a CTNext Entrepreneur Innovation Award in 2015. Eric again provided valuable insight into the process for us. We were awarded the $10,000 grant plus another $2,000 for being the judge’s favorite for continued work on the development of a new type of emergency tourniquet. We hope to bring that product to market in the near future.
IDH: What are your company’s future goals?
Our immediate goals are to continue establishing the value of our products in the market and generate regular sales from the products we have currently available. We want to be the go-to for patient handling needs. In the long term, we plan to continue developing new, innovative products that solve real problems for people.
IDH: Any advice for entrepreneurs or startup business owners?
We’ve been very fortunate to be able to identify a need and address it with an innovative product solution a few times now. While this has taken countless hours of our time and more than a few of our dollars, it has been worthwhile because what we are producing will help people.
Our advice to anyone starting out with a new venture is that you and you alone are responsible for deciding if your venture is a success, and that success is easier to commit to when what you are doing somehow has a positive impact on others.
Be flexible, listen to feedback, and really work to understand the industry you are working in and the problem you are working to address.