5×5 Night Follow Up: Melanie Koops of Werth Rack

The Werth Rack was the winner of 5×5 Night in November 2015.

“The worst thing is that you could look back and say, ‘oh, I wish I had tried, at least I could know if it would have been successful or not.’” Melanie Koops said.

Koops is a third year physical therapy student at GVSU and the co-founder of Werth Wrack, an innovative walker storage system that reduces rehab storage space by 50% and cuts cost to both hospitals and patients.

Koops’ fiance and business partner Chris Werth, now an exercise physiologist at Spectrum Health,  came up with the idea for the Werth Rack when working as a rehab tech at Metro Hospital. He found that the amount of time it took to find, adjust and sanitize a walker with the most widely used storage system was ineffective and frustrating, so he and Koops developed a solution.

“We collaborated on what the needs of therapists were and how we can simplify that part of a treatment session,” Koops said. “Because it is really unnecessary and wasted time.”

Koops utilized the resources available to her at GVSU and consulted with three of her physical therapy professors in order to determine how the product would function in a facility, how many walkers it would hold and what a rehab director would be willing to pay for their rack versus the competition.

In developing the product, the Werth and Koops cut down on costs where the could, buying raw materials and tools on Craigslist to build the prototype in Koops’s parent’s garage. When it came time to secure the patent for their design, instead of spending money on a patent attorney, Koops wrote the provision herself and hired a lawyer to edit it. She also spent evenings after school working on the Werth Rack website.

“I now have an incredible appreciation for people that start their own businesses,” Koops said.

The Werth Rack is currently used at Metro Health and in GVSU’s Doctorate of Physical therapy program. Mary Free Bed recently placed an order for two racks.

Cassie Eidenbergerer is the lead rehabilitation tech at Metro Health and can attest to the Werth Rack’s efficiency.  “I love it…it holds up really well. I am able to organize the walkers by size and brand.”

In October, Koops won second place and $700 at GVSU’s Idea Pitch Competition and was also the winner of 5×5 Night in November, taking home $5,000 in investment capital. Koops and Werth plan to utilize the winnings to attend a conference of the American Physical Therapy Association in February, which would put the Werth Rack in front of 10,000 physical therapists as well as 400 other vendors.


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