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Jobri LLC

Established in 1998, Jobri LLC manufactures ergonomic back supports and sleep products. The company distributes these products to retail stores, home healthcare distributors and medical catalogs throughout the United States and fifteen countries, including Germany, Belgium, the United Kingdom and Japan.

Previous business experience led Jobri cofounders Brian Gourley, John Biddle and Jonathan Hulmeto pursue affiliation with an incubator when they were ready to grow their new business. After working together as partners for 15 years in a company that owned numerous buildings, Gourley, Biddle and Hulme had learned that the responsibilities that come with building ownership, such as insurance and upkeep costs, can drain time and resources that could be spent growing a business. This time, they wanted to be free of that responsibility to focus on Jobri, and the incubator allowed them to do that. "We were able to use our capital for buying companies and not buildings," Gourley says. And buy they did. Jobri has acquired several of its competitors — an impressive four companies in five years.

The Pontotoc Technology Center Business Incubator has provided Jobri assistance on many fronts, including product engineering and employee training. Parent organization Rural Enterprises of Oklahoma’s connections with Oklahoma State University resulted in help from a faculty engineer who conducted detailed analyses of Jobri’s products, providing advice on how to better handle materials and thus reduce costs. The incubator also helped Jobri secure a state grant that helped the company create and publish a training manual for new employees. And when Jobri purchased and moved a sewing company from North Carolina to Ada (bringing 27 jobs with it), the incubator loaned Jobri equipment on which to train employees until sewing machinery arrived from North Carolina.

Starting with five employees, Jobri now employs more than 50 in its Ada headquarters. It also recently established an office in Alresford, Hants, England, to help maintain overseas contacts. The company’s product growth has been strong: after launching with 75 products, the company now offers more than 900, ranging from lumbar supports to office chairs. One of Jobri’s products, a heat-sensitive, visco-elastic pillow, is made using a technology originally developed by NASA for astronauts. Jobri’s incubator space has grown with the company, increasing from 7,825 square feet to 25,000 square feet. Jobri occupies another 65,000 square feet off site for its sewing, fulfillment and distribution facilities. Hulme and Gourley say their company is ready to graduate from the incubation program, but they first must tackle the daunting task of acquiring a facility large enough to house all of the operations under one roof.

Jobri’s success is evident in more than just its size. It owns several trademarks and has received a top 10 vendor and an outstanding customer service award from The Better Back Store. "We are delighted and surprised to win this NBIA award," Hulme says. "It will be a good marketing tool as we move forward and strive toward achieving our goal of continuing to be a high-quality vendor." Kenneth Norris, manager of Rural Enterprises of Oklahoma’s business incubator programs, says the company has succeeded because "the owners are intelligent, aggressive and forward thinking. They have a great ability to grow by purchasing competitors and incorporating those competitors’ products into their own line."

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