Meet PainPod's founder: Tom Ivascanin
FROM a garage at Runaway Bay to a recognised global operation, the business of pain relief is proving a winner for a local Gold Coast company.
Tom Ivascanin started out on his business as the exclusive Australia distributor for HiDow International, one of the leading companies in Electrotherapy. HiDow manufactures portable, hands-free medical devices known as TENS/EMS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation/Electrical Muscle Stimulation) units which work to relieve pain by way of tiny electrical pulses.
In Australia, more than $34 billion is spent on managing pain each year - almost $11,000 per person with chronic pain. More than 20 million workdays are lost from pain-related symptoms. Use of painkilling drugs – with negative side effects that include nausea, sleeplessness, and mood changes - has increased by more than 150% in the last decade.
The Story of PainPod
While on vacation in Las Vegas, Tom and his family were walking through a mall when Tom spotted a kiosk selling HiDow TENS/EMS units - something he knew little about at the time. After listening to the salesperson’s pitch, Tom – who was suffering from a frozen shoulder – tried it out for 10 minutes. Just sitting there in the mall, he felt immediate relief from the pain and, much to the disapproval of his wife (!), bought a unit.
While waiting at the airport to return to Brisbane, Tom again tried out the TENS – this time for a couple of hours – and again it relieved his pain. On boarding his flight, he stored the unit in his bags and, essentially, forgot about it!
A few days after arriving home in Australia, Tom realized his frozen shoulder was so much improved that he could now move his arm without pain! He knew then that he had stumbled upon a valuable and easy to use treatment that could relieve pain in many people. He pursued the HiDow connection and, in 2010, became their exclusive distributor in Australia.
At first he duplicated the approach he had discovered in Las Vegas and began to sell TENS/EMS units out of his own kiosks in local shopping centres. One memorable day an 85-year-old lady came to the shopping centre stand in a wheelchair. She suffered from arthritis and needed to use the wheelchair when the pain of walking was so bad. The team applied the electrodes to the upper and lower muscles of her legs for 20 minutes or so - AND SHE WALKED OUT OF THE KIOSK ALL BY HERSELF!
She also bought five units!
Sometime later, Tom received a call from the Bureau Chief of “Today Tonight’ – a very popular news and current events show in Brisbane. He told Tom that the 85-year-old lady from the shopping centre was his mother. He said that on a recent visit he was waiting for her at the airport with a wheelchair – but she walked off the plane all by herself, and hardly needed to use it anymore! He asked Tom for other success stories and told him he was going to do a feature on the show as a kind of thank you on behalf of his mum. Tom contacted a few individual customers – and the show went on air in 2011.
As time went by, Tom noticed that the TENS/EMS device did not work on everyone long term – and for some did not work all. To try to solve this issue Tom took the unit to a team of scientists at Griffith University in Queensland. They told him that the frequencies in the TENS/EMS unit were mostly the same. This was an important issue because not only were there differences in frequency effectiveness between individuals, but the body would also adapt to the same frequencies over time and so the effect wore off or was not so effective.
Tom took these new ideas to a team of engineers who designed a multi frequency model that was the basis of PainPod units today. They also designed a new case which was probably the most obvious physical change from the old TENS/EMS unit to the new PainPod. Back then, most TENS devices were rather bulky - frequently costing more than $1000. In contrast, PainPod is a lightweight, iPhone-style device with rechargeable lithium batteries, retailing for between $100 and $700. The PainPods can be carried in a pocket and are designed for use while travelling, sitting in front of a computer, or on a long international flight
The Benefits of PainPod
Mr. Ivascanin was, and still is, passionate about the benefits of a product that he discovered almost by accident. Tom emphasizes that the benefits of PainPod are not just physical, but include social, emotional, and psychological effects. When pain is removed all sorts of good things happen!
“We had people coming back in tears, hugging us and saying, “thank you for giving us our life back”.
The impact of PainPod
“We started out selling a few units at a card table covered in a cloth with a dodgy old banner, set up in the Runaway Bay Shopping Centre,” Tom said. “Now we have distributors around the world — we had no idea of the enormity of what we had in our hands.”
Unusually, the company has grown largely through word of mouth. “I’ve been in sales for 35 years and never seen anything like the reaction we received to the PainPods when we first started selling them,” Tom said.
The PainPod Experience:
“The more we found out about it, the more passionate we became about the product.”
“What also made us successful was that the people who sell our product are just as passionate about it.
“Nearly every distributor has been a chronic pain sufferer who bought the product for themselves.”
Finally, Mr. Ivascanin said “Our confidence in the benefits of PainPod are not simply based on personal experience. We have compiled a database of more than 500 published scientific papers all of which attest to the benefits of TENS, EMS and MENS.
In the community
Mr. Ivascanin is also proud that over the years the company’s success has allowed him to give back to the community, donating to Gold Coast charities such as Paradise Kids. In addition, Mr Ivascanin funded a school in one of the poorest areas of China and donated $150,000 to a charity called Hand of Hope, an organization that combats trafficking rings and aids with disaster relief as well as feeding and outreach programs around the world. Currently Tom is donating units to developing countries around the world.