Eric Wallentine and Nate Benjamin, both Meridian residents, own a home-care business, Homewatch CareGivers. They recently branched out into a related niche, opening a local franchise of Amramp. They sell and rent wheelchair ramps and other accessibility equipment, such as portable roll-in showers, in Idaho and Utah.
The inspiration and financing came from their home-care business.
Wallentine was delivering gifts to clients last Christmas and noticed problems with those clients' wheelchair ramps. The former structural engineer saw rotting wood and shaky aluminum.
"I evaluated a few different alternatives and, based on my structural engineering background, felt Amramp was the only solution that could be temporary that I would attach my name to," he says.
Wallentine and Benjamin, who became friends more than 10 years ago, brought David Wallentine on board as a full-time area sales manager. (David is Eric Wallentine's brother and lives in Meridian.)
The owners used their other business, Homewatch CareGivers, to finance their latest endeavor.
Q: How did you start the franchise?
A: I sought out Amramp, which makes solid, steel, portable ramps designed to (Americans with Disabilities Act) standards and purchased a franchise for Idaho and Utah.
Q: What makes your business unique and sets it apart from your competition?
A: The mesh design (is) fit for rainy or snowy climates. The design (is) more durable than wood or aluminum. The slip-resistant coating and design (is) safer than wood, concrete or aluminum. And the business model allows us to deliver a ramp in hours, versus weeks or months. Our ramps do not require a building permit (because they are) classified as durable medical equipment.
Q: What challenges have you faced, and how have you met them?
A: Getting the word out to the community of the difference between a makeshift solution and a safe one. Some competitors give over-the-phone pricing based on the least expensive solution rather than the safest solution. This is typically a ramp with a slope much higher than ADA standards, no handrails, slick surfaces and not fireproof for safe egress in a fire.
Q: What do you hope to achieve in the next three to five years?
A: Expand our business to include offices in Meridian and Salt Lake City. We currently have installation crews in both cities and have installed ramps in Boise, Nampa, Meridian, Notus, Salt Lake City and (in Utah) Tooele and Payson.
Audrey Dutton: 377-6448