When we walk down a busy street or go to the park with friends, we very rarely stop to consider that our ability to do these things with ease, something which we take for granted, is something that many people with mobility issues don’t have the access to. In the United States alone, there are 3.6 million wheelchair users that would find something we consider to be simple to be next to an insurmountable mountain.
For wheelchair users, everyday tasks are unnecessarily complicated by a mechanical design flaw in the modern indoor wheelchair, making terrains that are not hard, smooth, and compact difficult to cross. This means that anything aside from cement or slick floors, such as grass or gravel or sand or snow, are unnecessarily harsh on those suffering from a disability. This can permeate every facet of a person’s life, meaning that those afflicted by a motor disability might be unable to go to a neighbor’s barbecue, take their kids to the park, or go on a beach weekend with their family. In fact, when interviewing wheelchair users, 84% stated that independence, particularly in mobility, was what they struggled with most. To combat this, Traverse Solutions, LLC. was formed with a singular guiding principle in mind: to make the world more accessible.
We got our start at LaunchX, where our team of entrepreneurs and engineers was able to band together and start brainstorming a solution. A healthy team is one of the most essential parts of entrepreneurial success, and ours is pictured below. From left to right we have Liam, Vish, Claire, and Lenor. Liam gave us financial advising and engineering expertise, Vish was a source of creativity and brand development, Claire brought entrepreneurial strength and product development experience, and Lenor brought graphic design and business acumen.
We worked together to develop our product, which we named SpokeSkins. To address the mobility problems we’d noticed, we created a product that would wrap around the wheel of a wheelchair and latch on, sealing an external layer of traction onto a preexisting wheelchair. This would also be a low cost product, costing $120 per unit to suit our target audience of wheelchair users, 83% of which are unemployed. This proved as a point of comparison for us, being significantly less costly than alternatives costing upwards of $2000. Our product is currently in its patent pending status and we as a company move towards sales. We currently are focused on improving our product and brand by reaching out to local disability centers and creating useful connections.
Throughout this entrepreneurial journey, the team has learned so much–some of it the hard way. For one, starting Traverse gave us the footing that we need to move forward in the business world. It taught us way more about entrepreneurship than anything else we’d ever done, and more than anything provided a concurrent sense of familiarity and confidence in all things business. I can’t really tap into any particular one big lesson that I learned through my experience with Traverse, because there were so many big lessons learned. This could be small things, like how to price a product, or big things, such as how to apply for a patent. On a personal level, the experience also allowed me to connect with myself and truly begin to understand my strengths, which I believe is essential to be a successful businessperson.
As far as advice goes, I’d say that my big recommendation is that you learn your team’s strengths and your team’s weaknesses. It is impossible to understand all the moving parts of a business if you can’t understand the moving parts of the people in your business. That means understanding not only yourself but your team. As many of you might know, teaming is hands down the most essential part of any startup, and knowing yours will be the best first step you can take for entrepreneurial success. Another thing to note is that you need to have confidence to be an entrepreneur. This means in yourself, your team, your product, and everything else surrounding your company. As a founder, nobody will believe in your business more than you. If you believe in your company, chances are other people will too. With this confidence, you will realize that the worst mistake you can make in your business is failing to start. With that said, put aside your fears of failure. The worst failure you’ll ever have is the one you get from never even trying.