Lawyer Craig Olschansky was faced with a choice and didn’t like any of his options.
“I had back problems that caused me a lot of pain in my hand and my arm,” Olschansky said. “The choice that I was presented with was to have an operation or go on medication. Neither of those were options that I really wanted to pursue.”
Olschansky needed relief from a pinched nerve in his back, which he said left him with a “perpetual frostbite feeling in my fingers.” He began exploring other means of relief.
“I started to fool around with a couple of massage devices out there, but I couldn’t find anything that really did what I needed,” Olschansky explained.
Olschansky had always been a tinkerer. Finding the market missing what he needed, he took to his garage and began designing and building something that was up to the task. After constructing a crude prototype, Olschansky, working with a number of engineers, refined the product and ensured it could be constructed from commercially available parts.
Thus was born the Gelliflex Abacus, a customizable hand and arm self-therapy massage device. The gel-ball trigger and self-care massage product incorporates squeeze ball techniques, rolling action and compression to provide relief for nerve pain from repetitive activity or overuse. It incorporates interchangeable soft gel balls of varying firmness that allow users to modify the device’s configuration, enabling a range of exercise and therapeutic applications.
The device consists of two main parts. There is the frame with slots that accommodate the ball assemblies. The ball assembly is a solid steel axle that can hold one or two balls depending on the configuration. The innovative element of the design is an assembly that allows the axle and hub inside the ball to work together to roll easily without the support of another structure such as a wall or floor.
With his design in hand, Olschansky began to develop his business model. First, he needed to find a place where he could aggregate the parts coming from different suppliers. He also needed a center for order fulfillment, a place to process online orders and physically pack and ship the devices.
Raised in Conservative synagogues, Olschansky said he had a strong commitment to the concept of tikkun olam. He wanted to find a way to help the community while building his business.
He said he remembered learning that the highest form of tzedakah is helping someone become economically self-sufficient, so he began searching for a local nonprofit to partner with.
Olschansky ultimately connected with Gompers, which provides a range of training and employment services for people with disabilities in the Valley since 1947. Mark Botterbusch, director of employment services for Gompers, said the goal of the program is to help participants develop employment skills and work experience, focusing on “soft skills” such as interacting effectively with co-workers.
Botterbusch said participants have enjoyed working with Olschansky and being able to observe the business develop and grow over time. The device itself has proved popular with some of the 120 worker-participants who keep one on-site for use on breaks.
“It’s a win-win,” Olschansky said. “We’re grateful that our business model worked well with their staff and are thrilled to be empowering these individuals with employment opportunities.” JN