PBN-Tec was founded in 2015 under the name Paraben Consumer Software but its story started in 1999 when it was founded as Paraben Corporation which specialized in publishing shareware apps. It was founded by Rob Schroader and Amber Schroader, a husband-and-wife team. In 2022, Paraben Corporation shifted focus to digital forensic software and released the first tool to forensically analyze Palm Pilots and later other handheld devices. After more than a decade of creating leading edge technology for digital forensics, Rob Schroader took some of the technology and formed Paraben Consumer Software in 2015 to bring investigative tools to everyday consumers who couldn’t afford to hire professionals for digital investigations.
From an Occasional Dinner to Life-long Career
Rob Schroader was only 23 years old when he formed Paraben with his then wife. “We wanted to have a little extra spending money,” Rob stated. “It started as just a way to be able to afford to go out to eat a couple of times a month but quickly developed into a potential career.” As Paraben grew, both Rob and Amber quit their corporate jobs to focus on the company. Several years later, Rob and Amber divorced but decided that if they could co-parent, they could keep the business running. Although challenging at times, the partnership worked and during the next several years, Paraben saw substantial growth.
As the industry changed, Rob saw more and more competition and less opportunity for growth. In 2015, he bought out some of the technology they had developed over the years to form Paraben Consumer Software. The first products Paraben Consumer Software offered focused on deleted data recovery and personal investigations of computers, mobile phones, and tablets. In 2023, Paraben Consumer Software started the process of changing its name to PBN-Tec to accommodate its growing line of products.
“Technology is always changing,” said Rob, “and we could no longer recover deleted photos from phones. After hearing so many sad stories from customers who lost all their photos of lost loved ones, I was determined to develop a product to help.” While there is still no way to recover deleted photos from most phones, Rob created the Photo Backup Stick as a way to pre-emptively prevent photos from being lost forever. Many mobile phone users do not know how to get their photos off of their phone. The Photo Backup Stick connects directly to phones, computers, and tablets to scan for and back up photos to the USB drive.
“At first, I thought this product was kind of dumb,” reflected Rob. “It seemed too simple. However, after years of developing the product, I find myself using it frequently. It’s also quite satisfying hearing from customers who were finally able to clear room on their phone without losing their photos or who could eliminate expensive cloud.”
Inspired by the success of the Photo Backup Stick, Rob developed a digital frame that utilized the Photo Backup Stick to get your photos to the frame without complicated Wi-Fi setup. Phone2Frame uses a Photo Backup Stick to gather your photos from wherever they may be then allows you to crop the photos to fit the entire frame without distorted stretching. The built-in photo editor easily allows users to crop photos so there is no annoying black space common with portrait photos displayed on a landscape frame.
“I used Phone2Frame to create photo albums that I displayed on my TVs,” said Rob. “As we had people over, it was a great conversation starter because so many of our friends were in the photos.” For those times when new friends were attending a gathering, Rob realized that personal photos may not be appropriate to display. That’s when he created Dreamscrens: Dream Art Collection. The Dream Art Collection is a USB drive that contains over 500 images of famous paintings from throughout history, displayed in stunning 4K resolution. The subsequent eBook was released as a companion guide that gave information about each painting, including the artist, title, year it was painted, size of the painting, and it’s last known location along with a thumbnail photo. Soon, there were several iterations including Dream Impressionism, Dream Post Impressionism, and Dream Quotes. The Dreamscreens art collections have become a fulfilling product for Rob as he has done all the work to research, edit, and compile each art collection and subsequent companion eBook.
Even After Over 20 Years, Business Has Its Challenges
As PBN-Tec looks to the future, it faces challenges on several fronts. The foremost challenge marketing. Amazon has become the top source of new customers for the PBN-Tec line of products. Amazon allows for companies to sell their product in over 18 countries with warehouses in each to facilitate timely deliveries. “I see Amazon as a barrier to entry.” Stated Rob. “The processes, rules, and requirements to sell on Amazon are vast and can lead to losing the ability to sell on the platform.”
Despite the difficulties of learning how to successfully sell products on Amazon, there are plenty of competitors that offer new challenges for PBN-Tec which has seen an influx of Chinese manufacturers selling direct. For example, the Photo Backup Stick has apps to facilitate backups from iPhones and iPads, Android phones and tablets, and Windows and Mac computers. As the Photo Backup Stick gained popularity on Amazon, it saw more direct competition from USB manufacturers that did not invest in apps designed specifically for backing up photos from all these devices.
Another challenge facing the Photo Backup Stick product is that the operating systems for iOS and Android restrict how the process works. Before recent changes, the Photo Backup Sticks could detect the attached USB drive and automatically save the photos to the drive. Now, both operating systems require users to manually select the storage drive. This process makes easy photo backups slightly less easy. Fortunately, PBN-Tec offers product support for any confused customers unlike the competitive factories selling inferior products.
PBN-Tec is a small, family run company. This means that investment for new products and to maintain existing products must be funded from product sales. “Last year, we invested all the profit we made and more into new and existing products,” Rob stated. “This meant living on savings and not being able to focus on marketing and sales.”. The focus of PBN-Tec for 2023 will shift from product development to sales and marketing.
The Past Has Been Bright but the Future is Brighter
Despite worries of economic downturn throughout the world, PBN-Tec sees a bright future. As it focuses on sales and marketing, there is room for growth throughout Europe, North America, and Australia. As PBN-Tec continues to learn and implement strategies using Amazon as its primary sales channel, it will also begin to market directly to consumers in these markets using proven internet marketing strategies. “Getting our products in front of users is most of the battle,” said Rob. “So many potential customers don’t know that our products are available. Once they learn that they can easily back up and transfer their photos from all their devices, or once they discover they can turn their TV into a digital art gallery with our Dreamscreens art collections, the growth will happen.”
Some of PBN-Tecs new products are not quite as exciting but they offer more opportunities for growth. PBN-Tec doesn’t sell many of its personal investigation and protection tools directly to customers. It utilizes a network of resellers that sell investigation tools in retail and online stores. PBN-Tec is focusing 2023 to grow this channel of resellers and to entice professional end users of these types of products to discover new products that will help in their every day work. This diversification will allow PBN-Tec to weather the ups and downs of product sales. As one product’s life cycle comes to an end, new growth and markets helps to secure PBN-Tec’s future success.
It’s All Fun and Games Until it Lasts an Entire Career
When Rob Schroader founded what is now PBN-Tec, it started out as what some would call a “side hustle” today. Having worked several corporate jobs before being able to support himself through the company he helped found, Rob reflects back on a career as an entrepreneur that has lasted over 20 years and one he hopes lasts another 20 years. “When my company first started to experience real growth, I was sure it would make me wealthy at a young age. Instead, due to both successes and failures, it has provided a very fulfilling career while providing for me and my family,” said Rob. “I’m sure I would have made more money climbing the corporate ladder but I’m also sure my career wouldn’t have brought me as much happiness.” For some, business can be more than just about making a profit. For Rob Schroader, it has meant everything from having the freedoms of working for yourself to developing products that make a difference in people’s lives to bringing art and culture into homes throughout the world. Starting and running a successful business is never easy. One must be prepared to learn and adapt and to make difficult decisions but the rewards can be much more than financial success.
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