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Natalie and Mike Vogt with a chairlift that can be used inside or outside.

Mike Vogt uses his business to make lives better

“My nicknames were ‘golden boy’ and ‘lucky,’” Mike Vogt says of his early vocational journey. He’d just left college when he landed his first job as a draftsman for stair lifts and wheelchair lifts. He learned, grew, and was promoted in the small company, and he was content.

“I had no inclinations of entrepreneurship. I was fine just doing my drawings, living ‘normal’ life. My wife, Natalie, and I were active in the Mennonite church, where we served as youth leaders, led small groups, taught Sunday school, and served on boards.”

Then the company was sold. Soon, Mike and his co-workers started their own manufacturing company. They still focused on stair lifts, but affordable, simplified ones homeowners could install.

“God’s hand was evident with the new company,” Mike recalls. “Before long, we were growing at a rate of 60 percent annually.”

Their business was so successful that an equity firm made a purchase offer Mike’s partners could not refuse. Mike remained as COO, but he began to realize the company’s goals were different than his. He and Natalie had begun to enjoy anonymously helping others—such as families with medical bills, those struggling to make ends meet, and Christian charities. The firm that purchased their business focused on profits to the detriment of employees, but this conflicted with Mike’s longing to help others achieve better lives.

“My wife agreed to a second attempt at starting a company,” he says. Only this time, the business was set up so employees would eventually own the company and have a source of retirement income.

Investors bought into the dream, and Staying Home Corporation was born. The Harrisonville, Missouri-based company serves elderly and disabled people, creating products to help them overcome physical challenges in their homes.

But it looked like Mike’s third time with a company wouldn’t be a charm; that the golden boy’s record would be tarnished.

“While I was certain God had led me to this point of starting another company, I didn’t realize how prideful I had become. I believed I was being blessed because of my righteousness. God humbled me dramatically. Few decisions I made were correct, the products weren’t selling, and everything was crashing. I found the verse ‘pride goes before a fall’ is more like ‘pride goes before a body slam to the canvas!’”

Fortunately, Mike responded to what he felt was God’s discipline and met other Christian businessmen who helped him weather the storms and grow in his faith. “My key verse now is Isaiah 26:12 (NIV), ‘Lord, You establish peace for us; all that we have accomplished You have done for us.’

“We continued to design products, and God sent us just enough work to keep the doors open,” he says.

And those products are truly fascinating. Stair lifts are still in the mix—with new innovations, including an outdoor model. The company is also the first to create a small, affordable, battery-powered elevator that can be easily installed in existing home structures. And in May, they will release a new solar-powered vertical wheelchair lift.

Mike and Natalie base their business on creating niche items to enhance their customers’ lives. Sometimes an idea comes from their demographic audience, such as when their engineer’s elderly mother said, “I need a tornado shelter.”

The Staying Home staff began creating a storm shelter that could double as a safe room for home invasions while costing less than a new furnace.

“The first prototype we sent for testing at the National Wind Institute at Texas Tech came back in little pieces,” Mike recalls with a grin.

As they continued to work, the dream grew. What if they made a shelter that could fold against a wall and then easily deploy within three seconds to hold a whole classroom of children?

Then the Sandy Hook school shooting happened and the idea expanded: What if the shelter could protect against automatic weapons? Finally, they found steel that would withstand F5 tornado winds and was rated for NIJ Level IIIA ballistic protection. They created the Hide-Away Tornado Shelter/Safe Room to be configured in custom shapes and sizes—Kansas School for the Blind purchased one large enough for their whole student body. And a classroom-sized, foldable Hide-Away shelter can hold 30 students for an initial cost of around $500 per child—and will last for years to protect hundreds of children.

Besides developing great product ideas, Mike implements great ideas as he leads the Staying Home team.

Mike tells all employees that his personal priorities are his faith in Christ, his relationship with his wife, his children, his health, and the business. “I explain this so they know we will be open to them dealing with their own personal issues, even when it means they may have to miss work.”

Mike and Natalie also think outside the box with hiring. Whether it’s people who have made mistakes and need a fresh start, are overcoming addiction issues, or face other struggles, “We like to give them a chance,” Mike says. “They still have to work as hard as everyone else. But it’s amazing how well people do and how much they appreciate it when you just give them the opportunity to prove themselves.”

The Vogts also use another underemployed segment of society: 20 percent of their current staff is over 60. “We like to pair the young people with the older ones to mentor them,” Mike says. He adds, “It’s great to pair a cocky 24-year-old with an older employee and give him a hard time, ‘Look, this 60-year-old grandma is outworking you!’ It becomes a fun challenge for them to become as productive as the older workers.”

Not surprisingly, he notes, “Though our company is only in its fifth full year, I’ve had the pleasure of working with many of our associates for 24 years.” Mike and Natalie’s leadership style keeps employees hanging around.

“Our hope is to be able to provide jobs to those in need, donate to causes as the Lord directs, and create a company that can continue on with these goals long after we are gone,” he summarizes. “We are attempting to create a company in a manner that we believe is biblical.”

With goals like that, who needs luck?


– Jeanette Gardner Littleton | Special to Metro Voice

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