From Brain Injury to Inspiring Entrepreneur

This story appears in the June 2013 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

When Greg Marischen woke up in a hospital bed in 1991, the first question he asked was, "Will I play basketball again?" The doctors said no. The University of Minnesota law student had been run over by a boat; his skull was fractured, which caused a traumatic brain injury that left him unable to move the right side of his body. "I just didn't believe them," Marischen recalls.

And he acted like it. Through a rigorous course of physical and occupational therapy, and benefiting from cutting-edge research on neuroplasticity, Marischen regained 60 percent mobility on his right side and eventually was able to leave his wheelchair.

Those years of therapy are what drew Marischen to Brain Balance Achievement Centers, a franchise that takes a drug-free, integrated approach to underlying issues in many behavioral, developmental and learning disorders in children, such as ADHD, dyslexia, processing disorders and Asperger's syndrome. The curriculum is based on the work of chiropractic neurologist Robert Melillo, who suggests that an imbalance between the brain's right and left hemispheres is at the root of most neurobehavioral disorders in children. While Melillo's work is controversial, the Brain Balance techniques appealed to Marischen because they are similar to therapies that helped him after his accident.

Marischen opened his Brain Balance in 2010 in Cincinnati and says he's seen amazing results among his clients. We asked him to tell us more.

What challenges do your clients face?

Not every child is "typical." It really is harder for these kids. The media always asks, "Is ADHD real, or are these kids lazy?" That's crazy. When you test them, you find their eyes and ears can't gather information well, and they can't process it quickly enough. Sometimes they're 10 but processing the world on a 5-year-old level. It's a real struggle, and it's not their fault. It's rewarding making life easier for them.

What is at the core of the Brain Balance system?

The program involves sensory motor work, cognitive work and nutritional guidance. We identify what hemisphere in the brain is underperforming and get it up to the level of the stronger hemisphere to synchronize the brain. Typically it's a three-month program, though sometimes it can be six months and occasionally nine. Clients come three times a week after school for an hour, and our coaches and teachers work with them in all three areas.

What parents are going to see is a lessening of symptoms as we increase neuroplasticity and bring the brain to a more typical developmental level.

How do you respond to skeptics?

The strategies we use have been around for quite a while, and I think it's very much accepted in the educational realm. There are always people who are skeptical, but talk to parents and teachers who have had children in the program--they'll tell you it works. I have two children with special needs who have been through the program, and I used similar therapies for my traumatic brain injury. I think I'm more in touch with our clients than someone who didn't have those struggles. I understand parents' concerns and explain how we're going to help them.

How does Brain Balance compare to your previous job?

I had been working as a tax attorney, and it wasn't rewarding to me. I was helping millionaires save money, and most of the time I'd never see them face-to-face. This is hands-on work; I get to see the kids and their improvements and get to talk to the parents. It's a totally natural fit for me. All you would need is to make a difference in the life of one child to make it worthwhile. But in the last three years, we've helped lots and lots and lots of kids.

Take our franchise quiz to find the perfect match for you.