Backstory: Physical therapist diversifies his risk, reward with three businesses

vbridges@newsobserver.comFebruary 25, 2013 

Joshua Cohen owns three small businesses, including Mobile Rehab, TheraGo and Kontact bicycle seats.


  • Advice from Joshua Cohen • Develop partnerships with people who have complementary skill sets. • Value those who work with you. • Find ways to make people’s lives easier. • Don’t let naysayers hold you back.

— Joshua Cohen is involved with three businesses and has 12 partners.

At least that’s how he sees it.

“I find ways to partner with smart good people, and that’s always been my way of going about business, to not try do everything yourself,” said Cohen, 36, a licensed physical therapist who received a master’s degree in human movement science from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2002. “I feel like by working with someone else, it is more motivating.”

Cohen’s businesses include Mobile Rehab, which provides physical therapy in patients’ homes and senior centers; TheraGo, an online physical therapy documentation system; and Kontact, which manufactures and sells ergonomically correct bicycle seats that Cohen designed.

Cohen, who works out of his Fearrington Village home, started his first company, Mobile Rehab, in 2004.

“I worked at multiple facilities and essentially got tired of the corporate mentality around health care,” he said. “I felt there had to be a better way.”

Mobile Rehab provides physical therapy services to patients at community centers and in their homes, which is different from the standard model that offers services in a clinic or to homebound patients.

On paper, Cohen is Mobile Rehab’s sole owner, but he considers his 10 contract employees to be partners who are helping him build his brands.

“I have always looked at all the contractors that I work with at Mobile Rehab, not as employees and contractors but as peers and people who work with me in the company,” Cohen said.

When Cohen was developing Mobile Rehab, he got frustrated with the patient and billing paperwork and Medicare requirements. So he turned to Chapel Hill computer programmer Harry Park for help. Together they founded TheraGo as a way to help manage paperwork issues such as the ones Cohen experienced with Mobile Rehab.

“(Park) had a ton of useful skills and could benefit from applying those to this little niche market,” Cohen said.

Cohen started his third company, Kontact, after doing research for his thesis on how a bicycle seat’s design can affect oxygen and blood flow in the groin. Cohen also wrote a book, “Finding the Perfect Bicycle Seat,” on the topic.

Cohen came up with a comfortable and healthy seat design and partnered with Chapel Hill’s Performance Bicycle, which sold the E3 Form seats from 2005 to 2010. Performance then restructured its inventory and Cohen regained E3 Form’s intellectual property rights.

In 2011, Cohen was contacted by Andrew Severson, a customer in search of the E3 Form seats. Severson, who lives in Madison, Wis., eventually talked Cohen into creating Kontact, and manufacturing, distributing and selling the bike seats to stores internationally and online.

The venture was a “leap of faith,” Cohen said.

Cohen reduced his risk by establishing a royalty model, in which he licensed Kontact the rights to produce the seat. Cohen and Severson, however, work together as if it was partnership, Cohen said.

All three businesses are profitable, Cohen said, and the partnerships allow him a reasonable work week that includes seeing physical therapy patients in the Pittsboro area. The three businesses also diversify his risk and allow him to chase his various passions, he said.

“I don’t think any job could provide me with the stimulation I get from these three different businesses,” he said.

Bridges: 919-829-8917

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