TL; DR: Working from home during a pandemic as a developer or server admin often means sacrificing ergonomic standards for your health — but a sedentary lifestyle has health risks of its own. Enter StandStand, a portable and inexpensive standing desk built to help you beat inactivity wherever you go. Through its Kickstarter-backed product, available in sustainable birch and bamboo and four different heights, the StandStand team aims to enhance the health and well-being of customers across the globe.
We’ve come a long way since the 1930s and 1940s, when tobacco smoking was the norm for both men and women in the United States. Nearly everyone — including the majority of physicians — would light up without a second thought, while idols like James Dean and Audrey Hepburn elevated the habit to the epitome of cool.
That blissful ignorance was snuffed out as medical experts began to make connections between tobacco smoking and an emerging lung cancer epidemic. In 1964, Luther L. Terry, M.D., Surgeon General of the U.S. Public Health Service, released the first report detailing the dangers of tobacco use — and the social acceptability of smoking has declined ever since.
Today, research suggests that we may be thoughtlessly indulging in yet another dangerous activity, though arguably less tantalizing — sitting at our desks all day, every day. According to the Mayo Clinic, today’s sedentary lifestyle can lead to metabolic syndrome and increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer.
But since we can’t quit our jobs like a bad habit, creative entrepreneurs have come up with an alternative solution in the standing desk.
“We’ve all heard the phrase, ‘Sitting is the new smoking,’” said Luke Leafgren, President and Founder of StandStand. “In 2014, when the standing desk trend was getting a lot of buzz, the idea of engaging the muscles and being a little more active made a lot of sense to me. But with the teaching and advising I was doing, a single standing desk wouldn’t work. I wanted something I could take everywhere.”
Luke took matters into his own hands, creating a lightweight, portable standing desk small enough to fit in a bag. Today, StandStand delivers its unique furniture, made of sustainable birch and bamboo, to thousands of customers across the globe. If you’re a server admin or IT pro currently hunched over your machine at home, stretch out and read on: Thanks to StandStand, affordable solutions are out there, and they’re more convenient than ever.
An Affordable, Mobile Health Solution Launched via Kickstarter
Luke told us he took StandStand from a prototype to a thriving business with the help of a successful 2014 Kickstarter campaign.
“At first, it was just going to be something I used myself,” he said. “But I mentioned it to one of the students I was working with at the time, and he said he saw one Kickstarter campaign where they’d raised over $600,000 for a standing desk. I brought up the idea of launching on Kickstarter to my wife Lindsay Noll, who had recently gone to business school, and she was on board with the idea.”
By the end of the campaign, 1,836 supporters came together to raise more than $100,000 in funding for StandStand. From the prototype stage throughout the first two years of production, Luke and Lindsay partnered with a hometown cabinetry shop in Wisconsin.
“My friend was running his dad’s cabinetry shop in Northern Wisconsin, where my wife and I grew up,” Luke said. “We talked about how a partnership could help support the local economy and diversify his business, and all of the pieces sort of came together.”
Like so many others, the fledgling company faced a few early challenges with fast-approaching holiday deadlines and minor manufacturing hurdles. Still, StandStand’s supportive and patient backers made setbacks easier to overcome.
“We manufactured the product in Wisconsin for a couple of years, but my friend, unfortunately, had to shut down his shop at the end of 2016,” Luke said. “In early January 2017, I packed everything up and brought the business out to the Boston area, where my wife and I live, so that I could oversee manufacturing myself.”
Transform Any Location Into an Ergonomic Workstation
Since then, Luke and Lindsay have expanded the team, which remains somewhat of a local enterprise.
“We have an employee who does a lot of work in the shop, cutting up panels on a CNC machine,” he said. “My other employee sands them, and a local shop does the finishing. We were moving at a steady, slow burn for a couple of years, but when COVID hit in March, sales increased dramatically.”
Whether they’re logging on in bed or a cramped, makeshift office, many remote workers are now without the ergonomic resources they’ve grown accustomed to. This rings especially true for developers, designers, and server admins, who spend long hours hunched over computers. In fact, their shared symptoms, such as a stiff neck, tight shoulders, and spinal pain, are now referred to as Silicon Valley Syndrome.
While the StandStand team was forced to reduce hours in its shared workplace in accordance with social distancing measures, the team is still hard at work fulfilling increased demand for its standing desks.
“Massachusetts was an early COVID hotspot, so we had to adapt to that, but we are still making StandStands and shipping them out across the country to make working from home healthier,” Luke said. “It’s a good challenge. We’re grateful that our customers have been patient and understanding, especially in that first month where there were restrictions on when we could get into the shop.”
All in all, Luke said the journey over the past five years has been an exciting and fulfilling one fueled by organic growth.
“I designed the product for myself, but I also want other people to enjoy it,” he said. “Hearing stories from people who get a lot of use out of it, or love it because it’s the one standing desk that matches their decor, or use it to relieve back issues is really gratifying.”
A Sleek Alternative to Cumbersome Market Solutions
StandStand’s unique features connect with different users in different ways. It’s unexpectedly portable, for one, fitting nicely in most backpacks and computer bags of server admins, IT pros, and executives of all kinds.
“It’s super helpful for people who work out of a coffee shop for part of the day, from home at other times — or just working in different places throughout your house,” Luke said. “The portability also means that when you’re not using it, it’s really easy to put away.”
Customers also comment that the love being able to stand for some of their Zoom calls. Luke designed StandStand to be attractive enough to be left sitting on a desk unattended, but easy to fold to the size of a laptop and stash on a bookshelf if you want to use the space for something else. The two-pound product is also easy to use, with an assembly process that takes mere seconds.
“A lot of people say it’s kind of fun to hold the pieces in your hands, lock them together, and place your computer on it,” he said. “Things like that make it stand out from big, heavy options on the market.”
In terms of value proposition, Luke said StandStand can help boost productivity, ergonomic health, and even mental well-being.
“We spend so much of our time working on computers,” he said. “If we can make them even marginally more enjoyable or more fun, that’s a win.”
A Range of Models for Various Needs
Unlike many a startup founder, Luke’s goal isn’t to expand StandStand astronomically or rake in as much dough at whatever cost necessary.
The company has hit its stride, and apart from offering a few different models, such as the roomy StandStand Grand, and working to keep customers happy, Luke doesn’t plan on making drastic changes.
In the meantime, he’ll continue pursuing his university work.
“The thing I’m most passionate about is translating Arabic literature,” he said. “I’m also planning for a future life aboard a sailboat. My life philosophy is you kind of throw yourself into something, enjoy it, maximize it, and then keep learning. We will keep the company running strong while personally growing into new areas.”