DAILY LIVING & MOBILITY

Starting a Business as a Wheelchair User: The Handi Pac Story

Spinal Cord Injury (SCI)

Louise Sertsis

What is Handi Pac?

I pride myself in saying that I am an official business owner and the founder of a line of bags designed for wheelchair users. That being said, I had no idea what I was getting myself into nor the amount of work it would be, but I do love what I’m doing. I strongly believe that women should support and empower one another so I’d like to share some tips that I’ve learned during this process that may be helpful for those wanting to start their own business. I never thought of how much work was involved when thinking/developing an idea, to finally launching my product to market. A bag created out of my need for Independence and freedom. I can recall my relentless searches on the Internet, looking for a wheelchair bag that was similar to the vision in my head. This bag didn't exist online or in stores, my excitement grew as I pondered this. Finding a need is one thing but you need to be passionate about what you are doing because starting a business is hard work and all-consuming. Although my situation prevented me from doing physical work, my thoughts were ongoing and strong. I now had a goal to work towards, something I could truly call my own. This gave me purpose, passion, and determination. I was going to find a way to make this happen regardless of my mobility needs. I was never one to fear the unknown or shy away from completing a project. The past two years have shown that my perseverance and hard work is starting to show. In creating a product or service, you obviously need to learn as much as possible about the industry. This requires hours and hours of research but you are way ahead of the learning curve if you find someone with knowledge and expertise that can only come from years of working in the field.

Find a mentor

My next step was to find someone who could turn my vision which is now known as the Handi-Pac, into reality. Through a complete fluke, I was able to find Bill Ostrom of Ostrom packs ( Ostrompacks.com), who would grow to be my mentor and friend. He constructed my prototypes that mirrored my vision as to what I needed to the Handi Pac to be. Due to his extensive experience and unparalleled attention to detail, I was able to explain my concept, which became my first working prototype. Bill and I spoke on the phone and I drank in any wisdom that he was willing to share. After countless hours on the telephone, we created something that is truly unique and needed for wheelchair users. Without Bill's support/guidance, I couldn't imagine where I'd be today.  I can't stress enough Bill’s belief in me which was an integral piece of this puzzle. All you really need is a great person, such as Bill, to turn dreams into reality but you also need to listen. Sometimes you are going to hear information that is not necessarily in line with your vision and you will need to adapt your plan. This is not always easy to do but is paramount to be successful. Bill suggested ideas which I was able to follow to establish branding for my product, and without his business savvy, I would still be learning the ins and outs on how to create a successful business strategy.  I’m not sure how I found him but I'm so glad I did!

Develop meaningful partnerships

Exploring the feasibility by creating a business plan with a thorough financial budget, is imperative. There is a wealth of knowledge online that even includes templates for you to follow during this phase. Once again, find a mentor to review and get feedback or connect with a program such as SCORE which will link you with a volunteer entrepreneur to help guide you through the process. The prototyping phase has been a lengthy process, one that allowed me the opportunity to form invaluable relationships. Samanta Bullock is one of those relationships. She has not only provided her honest and constructive feedback, but she has done it while traveling in her wheelchair for her modeling career.  She is from London, England where wheelchair modeling is much more advanced than it is here. Samanta is now my friend, collaborator and like-minded individual. I'm honored to partner with Samanta Bullock, a woman who is impacting others in wheelchairs and has the same drive as I do. My biggest hurdle to date has always been the lack of funding hence why I decided to create a Kickstarter starter campaign. If successful, I will be able to order my first allotment of bags. I will be able to be a contributing member of society, which is beyond important for me. I wasted so many precious years, feeling sorry for myself and my situation.

Keep up with the Handi Pac

Today's a new day and I’m trying to make other wheelchair users lives better by giving the gift of independence.  My Kickstarter will offer the Handi Pac at a promotional price vs my website. Please be sure to visit my website at advancedfreedom.com and leave your email so I can contact you when my campaign is live. Like my Facebook page, Advanced Freedom Follow me on Instagram @advancedfreedom Follow on Twitter @lhunlouise or LinkedIn at Louise Sertsis

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