Kym Janiak's startup creates basic tools for big impact
In this technology-driven age, innovation can still be brilliantly simple and simply brilliant. Entrepreneur Kym Janiak strives for that kind of simplicity in his inventions which make physically demanding jobs easier, safer, and more efficient. That's the basis for his startup, Boomerang Innovation. The company's name and its marketing catchphrase, "Ideas you'll come back to," reflect his Australian heritage.
Janiak is a physical therapist and workplace injury prevention specialist. He's an on-site service provider for Fit for Work, a leading nationwide company that specializes in increasing industrial employees' well-being and productivity through safety measures and ergonomics. That work, coupled with his natural affinity for engineering, strengthened Janiak's resolve that tough tasks shouldn't take a physical toll on the people performing them. He was inspired to venture beyond the scope of his physical therapy job to create task-specific tools to help workers do their jobs with less physical effort. As strictly a service provider company, Janiak's employer gave him the green light to pursue inventing, making, and selling his tools on his own.
"I didn't start out with an intention to start a business, but companies wanted to pay me for my inventions," Janiak says. "I was just trying to come up with simple, smart, and practical solutions for some of the people I encountered in my physical therapy job."
Janiak designed his first tool to help a company's workers who were having difficulty with manual track switches in a rail yard. More than 250 pounds of force was needed for the workers to pull the handle that moves the tracks from one position to the other. He says, "I watched the workers perform the task, talked about it with them, and tried it myself. Instead of something costly, like adding machinery to do the task, I came up with a simple prototype tool that gives the switch operators a mechanical advantage." The tool Janiak created for that task is a bar that securely attaches to the existing track switch handle. The added leverage it provides enables almost anyone to pull the switch in either direction easily. Janiak says, "I fully expected that company to assign their maintenance crew to make the tool I showed them. They said their crew didn't have time to do things like that and asked me to make them. That started it all."
Soon Janiak was inventing other worker-focused innovations for industrial job sites. He says, "I made one tool that's a 20-cent piece of steel with a notch on it. But that one piece of steel has the potential to save my client half a million dollars a year in damaged product." Janiak hopes to consult with the Texas Tech University College of Engineering about testing and certifying his tools and designs. Currently, he has six inventions ready for certification then sale. Several more complex innovations are in development. He says he sees some of these inventions as viable, economical alternatives to costly capital projects that industrial businesses might otherwise face.
Hustle for hard workers
Janiak's hustle for helping people solve problems with their physically demanding jobs stems from his relationship with his grandfather. He says, "As a child, I spent quite a bit of time with him in his woodshop. He worked in a sugar factory at age 11 to help support the family. He was one of the smartest gentlemen I ever knew, though he grew up as a peasant on a farm in Poland and only had three years of formal education. Opportunity does not equate to intellect or a person's worth. There are people so incredibly skilled at their blue-collar jobs that you have to recognize them as a master of their trade. If I can make their lives easier so they go home and have energy to spend with their families and stay injury-free, then I'm doing something good in the world."
At the heart of the Hub
Four months ago, Janiak came to Hub for workspace, startup advice, and the overall community of entrepreneurship. He says, "I'm an inventor. I need an environment where I can work on my ideas and sketch them out. I know little to nothing about business things like marketing and financing. I'm getting guidance on that here. And it's such an exciting and incredibly cool concept to be surrounded by all these driven and innovative people. This seemed like an incredible opportunity to be in the right place to get all that."