Growing up in Dunlap, Illinois, Steven Chacko and Aadi Bhanti knew they would someday make their own way in business. “I was always interested in being an entrepreneur,” Steven recalls. “At a young age, I used to call myself an inventor.” As a member of the Future Business Leaders of America, even in high school he knew that big things were coming.
After numerous career changes and moves across the country, the childhood friends found themselves back in their hometown — with a big idea to end foot pain in the workplace. “I suffered from chronic flat feet my entire life, and I had tried different variations of orthotics,” Steven explains. “I wanted to create a solution which allowed users to simply scan their feet and create a custom foot orthotic. So I came to Aadi with that idea.”
The result was Hike Medical, an innovative startup that’s making significant strides in the med-tech space. Using AI and 3D printing technologies, Hike creates custom orthotics on demand, designed to fit the user’s exact dimensions to alleviate their specific pain points. For workers on their feet all day, the added comfort can make all the difference. Hike works directly with employers to provide this unique workplace benefit.
As co-founders, Steven and Aadi believe there’s no better place to run a business. “For us, Peoria has been a game changer,” Aadi notes, citing the region’s tight-knit startup community that has supported their mission from day one. And from prototype testing to general business advice, the broader community has been there for them as well.
When recruiting new employees from outside the region, Steven admits that prospects from larger cities are initially hesitant about moving to Greater Peoria. “There’s a lot of apprehension about coming here, but once they step foot in Peoria, they fall in love,” he says. Our sense of community, low cost of living and other amenities are tremendous assets — both for Hike Medical and the larger startup community.
From restaurants to recreation, Steven and Aadi appreciate everything Greater Peoria has to offer. Getting out into nature has been especially inspirational, Steven adds, and group hikes (no pun intended) are a great team-building exercise. That is something you just can’t find in many larger cities.
While Greater Peoria is no Silicon Valley, it offers its own unique value proposition. “Never once did I feel like I missed out on something because I grew up in Peoria, Illinois,” Steven declares. As Hike Medical continues to attract young professionals to the region, he believes the same opportunities will be available for their families as well.