March 24, 2020
Welcome to Leading Indiana Ambition – a series of leadership stories fueled by Elevate Ventures highlighting entrepreneurship across the Hoosier state. This month, we profiled Mark Schindel of Owl Manor. Stay tuned for more!
CEO Mark Schindel Discusses Past Experience and Owl Manor’s Growth
By Rachel Smith, Communications Specialist
CEO Mark Schindel, along with co-founders Mike Leach, Scott King, Randy Dorian, and Rick Storrs, started Owl Manor Medical, LLC (d.b.a. Owl Manor) in 2015. Focused in the companion animal health market (primarily horses and dogs), the Warsaw-based medical device company offers a platform of devices that harness the natural healing properties in the patient’s own blood or blood marrow to address joint and soft tissue related injuries/diseases (ex. osteoarthritis). Most commonly associated with the field of regenerative medicine, the goal is to restore balance through a concentration of cells, platelets, growth factors, and anti-inflammatory proteins. Owl Manor sells its products globally to veterinarians, in turn supporting their clients up through the highest levels of competition, including Olympic teams.
Schindel’s experience across life sciences, biotech, and medical device companies, including startups, has been valuable in leading Owl Manor.
How did you get into the veterinary industry?
My post-MBA career started out in biotech and then I moved to the medical device space – all human-market related. The opportunity to start Owl Manor came about through leveraging products that my co-founding partners had developed and commercialized in the human market. There was a rich history that included development, manufacturing, clinical/data support, among others. We believed that our products could be of benefit within the animal health market and it has proven to be the case. The opportunity to continue to learn about the animal health market continues to be a rewarding experience. We get some level of exposure to the emotional connections that exist between an owner and their horse (or dog) and ultimately the relationship with their veterinarians who provide care. The testimonials, including social media posts and shares, that we have received from veterinarians, horse and dog owners, professional riders, trainers, and others remain one of the more personally rewarding aspects.
Owl Manor’s devices concentrate the natural healing properties found in blood to treat injured horses and dogs. How did that technology develop?
The co-founding partners have a 20+ year history with our products. This includes coming up with the intellectual property (IP) as well as development through commercialization of a number of products designed to optimally, consistently, separate and concentrate blood and blood-related components. Like humans, horses and dogs have their own challenges with joint and tendon injuries. Originally partnering with a human-focused company, a significant amount of animal clinical data was available to support Owl Manor’s. Continued investment in clinical data remains a key initiative.
And you also have orthopedic experience?
My early technical and science background came through Purdue University. While doing my MBA at Vanderbilt University, I had some experience within tech transfer at Vanderbilt and then an opportunity to be part of an early-stage biotech venture at Roche in Indianapolis. My next job took me to Jacksonville, Fla., where I had my start in the medical device space with Biomet’s craniomaxillofacial division (then under the name Walter Lorenz Surgical). A move to Warsaw, Ind. with Zimmer presented opportunities to be part of some highly innovative, new technology initiatives including computer-assisted surgery, surgical robotics, patient-matched technologies, and ortho-biologics.
How did your previous orthopedic experience help with Owl Manor’s growth?
In orthopedics, I have been fortunate to gain experience across a range of product applications/areas, head-to-toe. The ortho-biologics experience was helpful in better understanding the products that Owl Manor offers. New product development through global commercialization provided various experiences that ultimately connected with all facets of a business. The connections with several people and business relationships from my past have also been of tremendous help to consult with or reconnect with as a sounding board.
Many of the veterinarians that we work with are surgeons with orthopedic specialties, so that is another area where there are some common aspects (appreciating the patient type is different). We sell our products primarily in North America and Europe (with some other international markets). Having prior experience or perspective has helped in navigating international markets. Really, it’s leveraging the collective experience – good and bad, best practices, and being willing to keep learning.
What led you to establish your operational headquarters in Indiana?
I was living in the Minneapolis, MN area when we started Owl Manor. Mike Leach, a co-founding partner and our COO, was based in Warsaw, Ind. The development and commercial history was also linked to Warsaw. There was manufacturing history about 45 minutes away in Huntington. There were also a number of resources in the Warsaw area, including those directly involved in the clinical history.
Plus, Indiana’s a great place to have a business. While we explored some other states, it was a positive experience with the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC), Kosciusko County, and the City of Warsaw. Warsaw, Ind. seemed like a natural fit for this business, especially with the history of the products that we had.
Owl Manor has seen consistent growth year over year. How has regional (Indiana / Northern Indiana) support helped the company build and grow?
From the standpoint of access to resources in the region – there are a number of individuals that Owl Manor has utilized for consulting and related engagements. As local hiring needs have arisen, we have been able to bring on really strong talent. Having this medical device knowledge base in northern Indiana is very helpful.
We are well supported through our local bank, professional services including accounting and legal, and numerous state and county outreach and networking engagements. As needed, we know there are a number of resources available to help small/early-stage businesses.
We’ve been able to utilize some of the advisory services and resources that Elevate Ventures has extended to us as a portfolio company and that’s been fantastic. It’s been a huge help in different areas including a marketing/branding exercise, a regulatory exercise, and a finance-related project. Elevate also offers a number of educational workshops and forums across various interests for early-stage companies These have been a huge value add for the company as we continue to appreciate the relationship we have with Elevate.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs looking to achieve the same growth?
Too many companies try to grow too quickly with a spend rate that can quickly spiral. While we did a single Series A round, we’ve been able to organically grow and build the business without any other fundraising.
Some things may be better to bootstrap at the start as you look to grow methodically and controlled, all the while managing revenue, spend, and ultimately profitability.
When we started this business, there were a number of do-it-yourself projects, notably marketing and sales for me. This included building the support materials including website, collaterals, videos, and others. Then, hitting the road to help educate, conduct demonstrations, establish relationships, etc. There’s no better experience than doing something first-hand and no task is too small. The people who make up Owl Manor have operated with that same mentality – you roll up your sleeves and make it happen (all in a collaborative environment).
I also think that not hiring too many people, too quickly – doing it at the right pace – has helped with our growth.
There’s always a fine balance of investing in growth, but also trying to build and manage profitability, and I’m proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish.
What’s next for Owl Manor?
We’ve got a great portfolio as it exists today: strong reputation in the market, excellent customer service, technical aptitude, and are surrounded by a great team.
The goal is to continue to build value, managing our existing products across different geographies, balancing new product development/pipeline and ultimately growing our profitability.
Learning all the while, we’re excited to keep going.