Helen Behn | Crain's Pittsburgh

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Helen Behn


Spand-Ice was born out of founder and CEO Helen Behn’s chronic back pain. The wearable compression wrap, designed by Behn, stays cold or hot for up to three hours and can be worn during activities, allowing wearers to manage their pain and live life more fully.

The Mistake:

I went generic in the beginning by targeting a wide range of people who suffer from back pain rather than looking at different niches for potential customers.

I launched my business in the spring of 2015 through Kickstarter, which put me in front of a wide array of people. I had immediate sales and made my goal, but I didn’t hit it out of the park.

In the early months, I spent a lot of time talking to chiropractors, specialty doctors and sports people. In speaking to them, I noticed that I was tailoring my approach to each group based on a different pain point. It occurred to me that my product might be more successful if I picked a lane and went with it. Back pain is not one size fits all. I needed to be leaner and meaner and go after a targeted market.

I was at a point of internal reflection – a point all entrepreneurs reach – and was asking myself what am I doing? How should I tailor my message in a way that will better connect with people?

I needed to be leaner and meaner and go after a targeted market.

The Lesson:

In March of 2016, I left my position as an e-commerce consultant for the Pittsburgh Steelers and delved into my company full time. While I had worked with athletes, I knew that professional athletes were not my entry point into the market. They have people they can pay to ice them down. It’s hard to compete with an ice submersion tank! I wanted my product to be accessible to everyday people.

This summer, I found that niche and began branding my product for pregnant women, an underserved demographic. I started working with a local prenatal education center in Lawrenceville and talking to women about their pain points. Pregnant women cannot take oral medication and their bodies go through many changes. Many want to work and carry on with their lives up until the minute their baby is born. There’s nothing all-inclusive on the market that provides belly-and-posture support and back pain relief through hot-and-cold therapy for up to three hours.

We went through testing and trials with this focus group to tweak the design to where we are today. The product handles women of all shapes and sizes, whether they're having one baby or twins. My next product will focus on taking a woman from pregnancy through postpartum to help support back pain through this entire transition period.

I’ve seen an increase in sales and interest now that we’re focusing our effort on women in general and pregnant women specifically. My next move is to get my product into the stores where pregnant women shop.

Follow Helen Behn on Twitter at @Spand_Ice.

Photo courtesy of Spand-Ice

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