10 Questions with Bouncyband
For a kid, sitting at a desk for several hours a day can be difficult, as they may feel the urge to move and fidget. With the arrival of Bouncybands, students could move their lower bodies while seated at their desks. Like a duck swimming on a pond, their feet could move as much as they needed while their upper body remained still and attentive.
Scott Ertl created the first Bouncyband in 2014 to help students move while they sat at their desks. Four years later, business partners Jeffrey Elsner and Steve Wampold bought the Connecticut-based company. Wampold is the founder of BigMouth Inc., which manufactured signature pool floats; Elsner was the vice president of international sales and development before the company was sold to Private Equity. They discovered Bouncybands at Staff Development for Educators’ (SDE) 2018 conference in Las Vegas show where teachers were expounding on the product’s benefits in the classroom; Bouncybands continues to exhibit at EDspaces. “Steve and I wanted to get into a business where we could use our innovative skills to create new products,” Elsner said. “We found an industry in Bouncyband where we could give back.”
The company has expanded its product base from the original Bouncyband to include more than 75 products, with about 10 new items being released each year. Within a year of buying Bouncyband, Wampold designed the brand’s Wiggle Wobble Chair Feet. Other items include Balance Balls, Wiggle Seats and Fidget Sticks. It has expanded to include sensory items such as weighted blankets, dark dens and the Peapod, an inflatable canoe-shaped sitting space.
“We’re best known for innovation and quality,” Elsner stated. “This industry is really quite new and we have expanded on the initial concepts of different types of sensory products and have developed different kinds of lines.”
Elsner, vice president of Bouncyband, discusses the importance of fidget devices and sensory tools and what makes Bouncyband products unique.
Business is exploding. We’re up about 40 percent this year and we were up about 35 percent last year. We’ve been growing every year and quite significantly. The demand, the awareness of this type of product has been growing tremendously as well. It’s been very encouraging and rewarding to see, because so many kids are being helped by the product.
What sets Bouncyband apart from other fidget band manufacturers?
We have many proprietary items and patented styles. We put a lot of thought and development into the products, which are quite unique on the market. If you have an elastic band on classroom chairs and you step on it, it’s going to go to the floor eventually – sooner rather than later. We have patented pipes that slide onto the legs of chairs so our bands will never go to the ground. The other thing with other bands is that they make noise, which is distracting. Our bands are made from very thick rubber so you don’t have any sound. Bouncybands are also very strong and last for years.
How are your products designed – what kind of fidgeting do they allow?
It extends to the arms, legs, feet and torso. That expends energy. Each child can discover which way to expend energy is most appealing and effective for them.
The other aspect is the calming effect with things like the Peapods, weighted lap pads and sensory dens. There are so many distractions in the world, kids suffer from sensory overload. With our sensory dens, a child can go to a quiet place and either just sit with a lamp and read so they’re not distracted by the other kids or just calm down a bit.
How do Bouncyband products harness energy or stress and help improve students’ productivity?
An independent Clemson University study concluded that Bouncyband helped kids focus approximately 10 percent more. The whole movement regarding movement, so to speak, figured out that kids should not be sitting still while working, as they have all this pent-up energy. Fidgeting is good for them. It helps them get out that energy, loosen themselves up and focus more. It has a very calming aspect to it.
What is your most popular product? What is the draw to it?
Our most popular item is the original Bouncyband, which we sell for elementary and middle school chairs and desks. We have a universal model that sits on any chair that has legs. People see the Bouncyband and they immediately get the concept. Initially, people thought it was only intended for individuals with special needs, but what they find out is that the whole class wants them.
Bouncyband also produces sensory products including Peapods, fidget toys and dark dens. How do sensory experiences affect learning?
After getting into the sensory field, we found that deep pressure has a very calming effect on most kids. The idea is that calming the kids and allowing them to get rid of this excess energy is very beneficial to learning. For example, a weighted blanket makes you feel good, comfortable and secure, and therefore you can focus. The Peapod’s sides squeeze the kids in a way that makes them happy to be sitting there. It enables kids to work to their potential. Plus, it calms the classroom; if one child is calm, the child next to them is not going to be distracted and is going to be able to focus better.
If you could design a fidget toy for kids, what would it look like?
We’ve learned that different people look for different fidget products for their needs. We’re constantly looking for ideas for innovative products. I’d come up with some ideas about what we need to do and talk with my partner, Steve Wampold, and let him figure it out. He’s very clever and inventive.
How have you seen fidget toys evolve over the past few years? What features have become popular?
The first time I became aware of these toys was with the fidget spinners. They were fun for a little while, but lost their novelty. The toys developed into tools to help you expel excess energy. The things that we produce are not novelties. It’s a proven scientific fact that Bouncyband helps kids focus, which, in my opinion, is something that will never go away.
What other markets do you serve, apart from the educational sphere?
Schools have been our initial and primary focus. Now it’s expanding to the home because these same kids who are fidgeting in school are fidgeting while they’re trying to do homework or sitting down to dinner with the family.
What are you most proud of about working at Bouncyband?
The most fulfilling part is the stories I hear. I often hear teachers say they bought Bouncybands for the classroom because the kids love them and it’s helpful. We also have parents of kids with special needs write to us about how much the child loves it. It’s really moving to hear those comments.