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Small business earns big honor: Hastings man named 2020 SBA Nebraska District Small Business Person of the Year

Small business earns big honor: Hastings man named 2020 SBA Nebraska District Small Business Person of the Year

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HASTINGS — A business in Hastings has earned a big honor from the U.S. Small Business Administration.

The SBA 2020 Nebraska District Small Business Person of the Year is the owner of Innovative Prosthetics & Orthotics at 3211 W. 12th St.

Rakesh Srivistava founded his business in 2006. It provides comprehensive prosthetics, orthotics and Durable Medical Equipment services.

The SBA Nebraska District Small Business Person of the Year award recognizes exceptional business growth, job creation and resiliency.

“I’m excited to recognize Rakesh Srivistava as the SBA Nebraska Small Business Person of the Year for 2020,” said SBA Nebraska District Director Leon Milobar. “Small businesses are the life blood of Nebraska’s economy, and Small Business Week is a wonderful opportunity to recognize the hard work companies like Innovative Prosthetics & Orthotics perform in our local communities.”

A prosthetics user himself due to a childhood accident, Srivastava began his career in a rehabilitation center in New Delhi, India. He relocated to the U.S. in the 1990s and then opened his first clinic in Hastings in 2006. He also operates clinics in Grand Island, Kearney and Omaha.

Innovative Prosthetics & Orthotics will be locally recognized in an awards ceremony at the Hastings location on Sept 25.

Srivastava specializes in prosthetics and orthotics.

Originally from India, he received his degree at National Institute of Rehabilitation Training and Research. In 1997, he moved to United States, attended the University of Nebraska at Kearney for grad school, completed his residency and soon after became an American Board Certified Prosthetist and Orthotist.

Wearing a prosthetic leg for more than 30 years, Srivastava said he is always looking to embrace innovative practices and new technologies within the industry. He also holds certification for working with microprocessor knees, scoliosis bracing and Cascade DAFO for pediatrics, among others.

Srivastava is part of a research team at the University of Nebraska at Omaha on a program called Cyborg Beast, where they are developing an affordable and innovative prosthetic hand with new forward-thinking 3D printing technology.

He has worked closely with Arumina Sinha, the first woman fitted with a prosthetic limb to successfully undertake a mountain trek. He said Sinha has inspired “millions of people along the way and showcasing that anything is possible with proper care.”

Srivastava has also worked with Malvika Iyer, a bomb survivor who is well known for her social work and touching stories that went on to affect millions of lives.

He is also involved with nonprofit organizations based in India where he uses his education, talent, time and generosity to assist those who are less fortunate and may not otherwise have access to the care they need.

Since Innovative Prosthetics & Orthotics opened in 2006, the business has grown. The original 600-square-foot clinic with two employees has blossomed into a 5,600-square-foot facility with additional clinics opened in Omaha, Kearney and Grand Island, and an additional 45 employees between his Nebraska clinics and clinical centers in his native India.

The Nebraska Business Development Center, a partner of the U.S. Small Business Administration, has played a part in the success of the company. Srivastava sought the center’s assistance in 2013 with obtaining government contracts and then again in 2015 with obtaining a state prototype grant.

NBDC consultant Sara Bennett has been working with Srivastava since 2018 to expand his current operations to include manufacturing custom-made prosthetic devices using 3-D printing technology.

“Rakesh and his team at Innovative Prosthetics & Orthotics have done an outstanding job in growing the company, providing insight to the industry, and devising innovative ways to adapt prosthetic devices in the market,” Bennett said. “He is truly making an impact in improving the quality of life of amputees and prosthetic and orthotic users. Rakesh’s giving spirit of improving his community of Hastings and helping to open prosthetic clinics in India further solidifies his character and exemplifies remarkable qualities of an entrepreneur.”

Like other small business owners, Srivastava said the coronavirus pandemic in March both caught him by surprise and had a negative impact on his small business.

“I’m very passionate about my business and what I do, and when this pandemic happened COVID affected us a lot,” Srivastava said. “Elective surgeries were closed, hospitals were reserving beds for COVID patients, and since we are a referral service our numbers went down to nothing.”

He said the timing of the pandemic was also bad as he had just moved to his new Hastings location in February.

“With all the expenses that you put into your business and then all of a sudden you have no new revenues coming in, it just puts you in a pretty tight bind,” he said.

Srivastava said shutting down his business was not an option. He turned to the Bank of Doniphan to apply for the SBA-backed Paycheck Protection Program loan that allowed him to keep his business going.

“We got the PPP notification and it was like an angel sent to our small business,” he said. “It gave me a cushion to stand back up again. It really saved us from having to shut down the business, because I couldn’t afford (to keep it running) after three to four months. We had to pay vendors, rent, and we just moved into a brand new facility with the mortgage to be paid and no income.”

During the coronavirus pandemic, Srivastava continued to serve the Hastings, Omaha, Kearney and Grand Island communities. He used his 3-D printing technology to make protective pandemic masks, along with an innovative strap that secures the face mask, making it more comfortable to wear for extended periods of time.

Receiving the SBA Small Business of the Year award means a lot, Srivastava said.

“When you start your journey, you don’t know where you will end up,” he said. “At some point in your life, you want to be appreciated and recognized for what you do. When you see what you have done has made an impact in not just your life, but other people’s lives as well, it is very satisfying.”

That is especially true for Srivastava, having been born in a small Indian village, lost his leg as a child, but then working hard, receiving the education he needed to help others, moving to the U.S. and starting his own small business in an industry dominated by large national corporate competitors.

“But I had a very strong belief that what I was going to do would make a difference in my life and other people’s lives,” Srivastava said. “Receiving this recognition is very encouraging for a small business person like me. If you are honest, hard working and you put your effort in and are consistent — yes, failures will be there, but just take those failures with your real time experience and you will succeed and your will be recognized and appreciated for what you have done.”

The small business awards program is part of National Small Business Week, which has typically been observed the first week of May since 1963. National Small Business Week award announcements and celebrations were postponed this year due to the coronavirus outbreak. The 2020 National Small Business Week will be a virtual online event, tentatively scheduled for later this month.

“National Small Business Week is a time to recognize the impact entrepreneurs and small businesses have on our economy and in our local communities,” said SBA Great Plains Regional Administrator Tom Salisbury. “Like many things in 2020, the journeys of this year’s award winners took a turn most didn’t anticipate. However, themes of ingenuity and tenacity remain the same as small business owners continue to inspire us in new and meaningful ways.”

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