Sometimes it helps to know the right people. And for Daphne Fecheyr-Lippens, that right person happens to be her boyfriend, Mathias Ellegiers, a structural engineer and co-founder of Jaswig.
While Fecheyr-Lippens was working on a Ph.D. in Biomimicry in 2012, she found herself sitting for over 10 hours a day and consequently suffering from neck and lower back aches.
After her doctor had recommended that she start using a standing desk, the duo began looking online, only to be disappointed by the clunky, unattractive and far too expensive options available.
So 27-year old Ellegiers did what most structural engineers would do in that situation: he built his own.
As soon as Fecheyr-Lippens started telling colleagues at the University about her new work station, orders started coming in, and Ellegiers decided to test the market. The pair brought on Tyler Schimmoeller to help perfect the product, and the team hasn’t looked back since.
“We never intended to start a business in standing desks, but once we knew there was an opportunity, we used digital manufacturing technologies to prototype the product at a relatively low cost, which allowed us to have a lot of tests and changes on the design,” says Ellegiers.
“Once we believed we had a great product, we launched a Kickstarter campaign to see, without too much financial risk, if there was actually a market out there for stand up desks,” he adds. In 2014, the team invested $50,000 of their money into the company and later (in 2015) launched a Kickstarter campaign that brought in $74,000.
Combining creative and financial forces proved beneficial to the team as they were able to work together to create the StandUp Nomad, Jaswig’s first desk. This standing wooden desk features adjustable heights along with superior function and a very aesthetically pleasing Scandinavian design.
The desks are 100% manufactured in the USA using sustainably-grown, Forest Stewardship Council-certified birch plywood. And one of the best parts about the Jaswig, is that this “jigsaw puzzle” can be assembled in under 15 minutes.
As the team started talking to others about their new product, a teacher friend asked if she could try one of the desks for a student with a lot of energy. “That made me think back to my mother who let me run around the yard or kitchen table while reading my history lessons out loud,” says Ellegiers.
“Daphne and I loved the idea of the teacher wanting to introduce the desks to her classroom, so we made a few for the school, and again, due to the product’s obvious benefits and instant success, from one came another,” he adds.
It’s no surprise that the Jaswig StandUp has been a hit with schools all over the country. As any educator can tell you, it can be a real challenge to get kids to sit still for hours on end. After all, we were not designed to sit at a desk all day, yet the school system still operates with the mentality that you sit and do your work. So with a little bit of creativity and some teachers that were willing to look at other options to engage students, the Jaswig’s “My First StandUp” desk has been making an appearance in classrooms all over the country.
And now more than 110 Jaswig desks — handmade by Amish woodworkers in Ohio — are in over 25 schools nationwide. The price of the desks, which range from $299 for the kids model up to $449 and $499 for the adult model, can present a challenge to schools which are operating on tight budgets. So to help teachers access the product for their classrooms, Jaswig helps schools write grants and find funding sources to purchase desks.
“As a result of my own personal experience during my education, I care a lot about getting these desks into schools,” says Ellegiers. And the stories the team hears from the teachers who are using the product is what keeps the company moving forward in their pursuit to make the Jaswig more affordable for schools.
“A teacher from Steel Academy in Akron, OH told us that one of the most immediate results is that kids are calmer and more task focused. They seem to be more at peace or feel more comfortable in that position and therefore don’t wiggle and fidget as much,” says Ellegiers.
Jaswig’s business model revolves around a central theme: “Our philosophy reflects in every aspect our company, resulting in a durable, human-centered and environmentally-conscious business, products, and relationships.”
It’s no coincidence that this business philosophy directly matches the employee’s personal philosophies of health and sustainability. “Everyone working at Jaswig is an equal human being and has a voice,” says Ellegiers. “Health is a very holistic approach, and everything in the system is interrelated,” he adds. “We produce a product that helps you be healthier, and we produce the product using materials that preserve our natural habitat.” The company also prides itself on making the desks locally to ensure a healthy economy in our country.
Jaswig’s success is not just limited to the United States. After word had started traveling about these ergonomically designed desks, people in Europe noticed as well, and soon after the launching in the US, the company opened a European branch with production in Belgium (the desks sold in the US are still made in Cleveland.)
In February, Ellegiers and Fecheyr-Lippens plan to take a month off to volunteer in a school in Cape Town, South Africa and teach math and surf classes to children from the poorest neighborhoods. And after that, Jaswig’s first plans are to launch a new school desk at lower prices and to increase the product range for a healthy new work environment.