In life, and in business, the actions of one can so often make a difference to the lives of many.
This was the case for Medifab, when as a fledgling company in Auckland in the early 1990s, a local dentist named Richard Gross was confident enough in its young founder Roger Mascull to give the company its first big commission.
This job was a critical turning point in the company’s history and set Medifab on its current path towards becoming the truly global company it is today.
At the time, Roger Mascull was a sole trader, working in cramped conditions in the back of his father-in-law’s warehouse. The craftsman upholsterer was in his early twenties, and had recently left the family auto-trimming business where his last job had been the complete interior refurbishment of a luxury Aston Martin.
Roger had started his own company to specialise in the upholstery of medical equipment such as dental chairs and operating theatre mattresses. But after six months, the business wasn’t taking off quite as planned.
He started marketing his services directly to the local dentists, then one afternoon, received the pivotal call from Richard Gross of Blockhouse Bay Dental Centre which would change everything.
Richard and his wife, and practice manager, Lesley-Anne visited Roger’s humble workplace. There wasn’t much to see but after chatting to Roger about his skills and workmanship, Richard asked him to visit his practice to have a look at a chair that could do with a ‘tidy up’.
A few days later, Roger was shown into the storeroom at the Blockhouse Bay Dental Centre, where in the back corner gathering dust was an old Belmont Dental Chair, with aged and split upholstery. It was the full restoration project Roger had been waiting for. He painstakingly dismembered the chair, unpicking the old upholstery by hand. After replacing the old padding and foam work, Roger fitted the new set of covers he had made in marine grade vinyl, which included ‘stitch and fold’ pleated panels for the centre, and neatly top-stitched side borders.
Richard was so impressed by the job he asked Roger to ‘do the same to the chair in surgery two!’
With these two significant jobs in his portfolio and Richard Gross as a referee, Roger was able to start telling the Medifab story to the world. One success led to another and the ‘little back of the building company’ gradually got underway.
In the coming years Roger started to work with the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) and Driver Assessment Services, making and setting up customised seating for drivers who had had accidents, were disabled, or had degenerative conditions. This led to the later development of wheelchair seating and other products for physically challenged and disabled people including the Spex® Seating range of modular, fully adjustable products on which the company has now built its name in the global market.
Roger’s business relationship with Richard Gross continued on from the early 1990s. A decade later the innovative pair worked together to design and develop the first bean bag headrest for dental chairs which is still available today under the Dentifab range from Medifab, along with a range of dentist bibs they designed.
These sorts of innovations were nothing new to Richard, who back in the 1960s had upholstered his own chair to get a “lie down” set up where his patients lay down in the chair and he sat behind them to work. In those days, lie-down chairs were only available at great expense, and New Zealand dentists generally treated patients standing up.
Richard has been retired since 2000 and says he has never regretted ‘taking a chance on the new chap all those years ago.’
‘We were happy with everything Roger did for us and would certainly recommend giving him a shot – particularly when it comes to developing new ideas. Every time we looked at trying something new he always came through with interest.’