The VanBuskirks family business bases its success on providing one high-quality product and a solid base of customer service.
VanB Enterprises of West Valley, NY, was founded by Ramon VanBuskirk, who invented the companys sole product, The Hearing Aid Sweat Bands, to meet his personal need for moisture control for his hearing aids. VanB Enterprises, which launched its product in the late 1980s, is operated by VanBuskirks son, Scott VanBuskirk. HPR recently had the opportunity to speak with the younger VanBuskirk about his familys business.
HPR: Please tell us about VanB Enterprises. How many employees are in your company?
VanBuskirk: We manufacture, package, and market the Hearing Aid Sweat Band. [It] is the only product we manufacture and sell. Our operation is quite contained and runs efficiently with four people.
HPR: Whose idea was it to create the Hearing Aid Sweat Bands?
VanBuskirk: Ramon VanBuskirk is founder of the company and the inventor of the Hearing Aid Sweat Band. He came up with the idea for the [product] because he was constantly suffering from hearing loss due to moisture in his own hearing aids.
HPR: Are there multiple uses for them? If so, what?
VanBuskirk: Yes, as [Ramon VanBuskirk] developed the product, he also was able to reduce feedback effects of wind, as well as some general protection of his aids from dirt infiltration.
HPR: What are the additional benefits of using Hearing Aid Sweat Bands?
VanBuskirk: Hearing Aid Sweat Bands offer many advantages over other BTE hearing aid moisture protectors.
Made from specially designed fabric, the Hearing Aid Sweat Band protects the BTE from the damaging effects of moisture. It is inexpensive and disposable, but will withstand a few launderings. We recommend hand washing in a mild detergent and air-drying.
The BTE wearer is able to operate the controls through the fabric while the sweat band is in place. [It] is easy to slip over the hearing aid. There is no need for an application procedure or special tools. The special fabric is soft and subtle, and is not irritating to the skin.
The Hearing Aid Sweat Band sheds moisture, but also absorbs and holds moisture. [Also, it] does not hold moisture in or against the hearing aid, but rather allows moisture to evaporate and wick away.
The Hearing Aid Sweat Band allows sound to readily pass through it. Tests have shown the sound dampening effect to be a mere 1.5 to 2 dB. [They] are great for sports enthusiasts or anyone who suffers from the sudden loss of hearing due to perspiration, rain, or snow.
The Hearing Aid Sweat Band has the ability to absorb a large amount of moisture, enabling the wearer to leave their hearing aid in place during high perspiration sports activities or a visit to the hair salon. It protects the BTE from hair spray and other hairstyling products, as well as dusty or industrial environments.
[Lastly,] the Hearing Aid Sweat Band reduces cleaning and maintenance visits, as well as the damaging effects of moisture on the batteries and inner workings of the analog and digital BTE.
HPR: Are they for all ages?
VanBuskirk: The smallest sweat band is our mini size, which is 1 inch in length. Many parents order the sweat bands for their children. It helps them to be able to wear their hearing aids when participating in sports and activities with other children and not have to take off the hearing aids due to malfunction from moisture penetration. It helps the children feel they are part of the group.
HPR: What is the proper care for the Hearing Aid Sweat Bands?
VanBuskirk: [They] can be air dried between uses. They can also be hand washed with a mild detergent and rinsed. After four or five washings, the moisture barrier begins to break down.
HPR: How many prototypes were developed before the perfect model was available for marketing?
VanBuskirk: Probably a dozen or so prototypes were made until it was thought to be just right.
HPR: How do you market a hearing aid sweat band? Who are your biggest purchasers?
VanBuskirk: Trade magazines, such as Hearing Products Report, have provided an excellent vehicle for industry penetration. The Hearing Aid Sweat Band has definitely become a recognized name among hearing industry professionals.
Our sales are comprised of three groups. Our largest group is distributors of hearing-related products, who inventory the Hearing Aid Sweat Band and supply them to audiologists and related facilities. We also sell wholesale to audiologists and retail to the general public.
HPR: Are these sweat bands made on the VanB premises, or do you have a manufacturing plant elsewhere?
VanBuskirk: We manufacture the sweat bands at another facility.
HPR: Does the company have any competitors?
VanBuskirk: There are other products designed to create a similar result, but in our opinionand according to countless comments and letters from individuals, as well as dispensing audiologistsnone accomplish the results as well as the Hearing Aid Sweat Bands.
HPR: Does VanB plan to manufacture additional products in the future?
VanBuskirk: The Hearing Aid Sweat Band is the only product that we manufacture and sell. Because this is a specialty product, we are dedicated to providing a quality product to our customers, and take pride in the satisfaction that so many people find in using the Hearing Aid Sweat Band.
HPR: Are VanBs Hearing Aid Sweat Bands distributed both domestically and internationally?
VanBuskirk: We have customers from every corner of the United States, and everywhere in betweenas well as Canada. We have shipped [our] product to various foreign countries including England, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and several other Asian countries. In warmer climates, people are more aware of the necessity of something to reduce the moisture penetration from perspiration. However, the Hearing Aid Sweat Band is extremely beneficial in colder climates to reduce the moisture penetration from external forces, such as condensation, rain, and snow.
HPR: Is there another developmental leap for VanB Enterprises?
VanBuskirk: We have recently added a 5 XL size to our line, which accommodates FM systems. Our current goal is to continue to perfect what we currently offer to our customers. Customer feedback generally points us in the direction we need to expand or perfect.
HPR: What are the model goals for the company for the next decade?
VanBuskirk: Our goal continues to be one of achieving excellence in customer service and to provide the best possible product for an industry-specific need.
R. Schuyler Silverman