30 in Their Thirties 2015
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Matt Behnke // 37
Founder and CEO | Orthotic Shop, Utica | Employees: 10 | Revenue: NA |
Kettering University, University of Michigan
Growing up with two uncles who were podiatrists, Matt Behnke’s interest in health care was sparked at an early age. Little did Behnke imagine that his uncles’ passion for podiatry would inspire him to launch an orthotic footwear business.
Offering shoes, socks, heel cups, pads, and braces, the Orthotic Shop began when Behnke thought he’d try selling a few items on the Internet. All shipments and returns were made from a makeshift warehouse in the garage of his condominium. As sales increased, he added a wider variety of brands and items to the online-only department store. In 2008, he moved to a new home, giving him more space to store inventory and enabling him to add more products. A turning point in growing the company came when Behnke used his background in computer coding to revamp his website (OrthoticShop.com) to bolster marketing and sales. It worked; in fact, the growth led him to invest in large warehouses in Utica and Warren.
“I didn’t sleep much back then,” says Behnke, CEO of the Orthotic Shop in Utica, explaining how he balanced his time between working full time at TACOM in Warren as a government civilian engineer, spending time with his family, running his emerging company, and pursuing a master’s degree in engineering management at the University of Michigan.
“Luckily, while working for the U.S. Army, they had flex time, so I could go in at 9 a.m. I also had every other Friday off,” he says.
The entrepreneur explains there are several elements that make his online footwear store unique, including the company’s customer service desk. With eight employees working at the office, Behnke says all issues are taken care of right away. “I read this thing once, ‘You don’t want to outsource your core competency, and customer service is our core competency,” he says.