At 33 years old, Matt Bruback has already accomplished a pair of major life goals — one in professional sports, one in entrepreneurial pursuits.
“I knew I wanted to do two things in life,” says Bruback. “I wanted to be a baseball player, and I wanted to own my own business. I wanted to be my own boss.”
In sports, Bruback, a pitcher, played in the minor leagues for nine years. A onetime star with State College of Florida in Bradenton, Bruback spent time with the Baltimore Orioles, San Diego Padres and Chicago Cubs organizations. He had several Major League Baseball spring training tryouts.
But with his baseball career over, Bruback, a Sarasota resident, is now focused on his business goals. In fact, he owns several businesses. The list includes a jewelry design company and a juicer products distribution firm, Juicer Warehouse. He also recently launched a honey distribution firm in Sarasota. Says Bruback: “I'm a little bit of an eccentric guy.”
Bruback's first and true business passion, however, is the Miracle Belt.
A niche product, the Miracle Belt is a weighted sensory device that has morphed from a sports training aid to a unique tool that helps disabled children control their bodies better. That sensory issue, knowing where you are in space, impacts children with a variety of conditions, including cerebral palsy, autism and Asperger's syndrome. The Miracle Belt helps overcome those balance issues, Bruback says, through its system of weights around the waist.
Bruback markets and sells the Miracle Belt through his company, Sarasota-based Original Diamond Designs. He sells the belts online and through a network of worldwide distributors who work with and in schools and children's therapy centers. Sales are in the mid six-figures, says Bruback, and have grown steadily, albeit slower than he'd like, since 2008.
Moreover, he says at least 10,000 children have used the belt to improve their lives — a fact in which he takes great pride. “I love business,” he says, “and I love helping people.”
Bruback hopes 2013 will be a breakthrough year for Miracle Belt. He has worked heavily with partners and distributors in Australia, where he says the market is significantly riper than the U.S. “Australia has been a boom in sensory development, way more than America,” Bruback says. “I think Australia has a better understanding about the importance sensory plays in overall development.”
Bruback, who had some sensory issues when he was a young child, suffered a knee injury while pitching in a minor league baseball game in 2001. The injury negatively impacted his balance, on everything from hurling fastballs to doing leg curls. The belt, which he invented in 2004, was his physical therapy tool.
He initially called the product the Balance Pro SportBelt, and planned to market it to golfers, to help with balance. But a short time later he met some people at a golf products trade show who told him about the possibilities for disabled children. That's when Bruback changed directions.
Bruback spreads his time out with all the companies he runs, though he reinvests the bulk of the profits into Miracle Belt. It's both the best business opportunity, he says, and the task that has become a calling.
“My main focus has always been to provide funds for the belt,” says Bruback. “I do feel a responsibility to help these children.”
Minor league baseball pitcher-turned-entrepreneur Matt Bruback learned some valuable business lessons in the past few years. The teachings include:
• Don't rush it: Bruback says he spent $50,000 on a first run of the Balance Pro SportBelt. But he quickly redesigned it after he discovered some flaws. “I made the biggest mistake a small business owner could make,” Bruback says. “I made too much product.”
• Follow a passion: Bruback says all his businesses, from jewelry design to the Miracle Belt, are things he thoroughly enjoys. “Sell something you like,” says Bruback. “If you don't like it, you won't put forth the effort.”
• Study it all: While Bruback recognizes the axiom that cash is key to a successful startup, he says industry knowledge is also paramount to success. That includes competitors, and why the entity might have failed or succeeded. Make sure, says Bruback, “you fully understand your industry.”
This story has been updated to clarify that Bruback invested $50,000 on the first run of the Balance Pro SportBelt, not the Miracle Belt.