You know when you see a new brand or a product and think, how has that not existed before and why didn’t I think of it first? Well, Cool Crutches is one of those for me. Brilliant brands don’t just happen overnight. An honest and sometimes very hard and authentic story is the reason for their existence. And this is absolutely the case for this brand.
Cool Crutches was founded in 2007 by Clare Braddell. In 2005 Clare’s daughter Amelia, fell off a quad bike and smashed a vertebrae in her back leaving her with an incomplete spinal injury. The diagnosis at the time was clear, she would eventually be physically capable of walking again but never without aid and the extent of aid required was unknown.
Not only was this an enormous shock but the doctors highlighted it was a time sensitive injury which meant the first 6 months rehabilitation was key to determining Amelia’s long term mobility.
Whilst Amelia suffered limited movement and feeling from her waist down, she was determined to get back on her feet and beat the odds. Following a number of operations, Amelia was assigned to a physio and the ball was firmly in her court. What became apparent very quickly was the lack of comfort & stability in NHS walking aids, namely crutches. They were painful to use, unstable, clicked every step of the way and were hideous to look at. After the first few weeks upright, Amelia’s hands were ruined with blisters and rehab turned to bed rest to allow these to heal.
The mother/daughter duo understandably were frustrated, knowing the first six months were the most crucial they could not believe uncomfortable crutches and blisters were potentially going to be the reason for limited recovery. Immediately Clare set about sourcing a pair of comfortable crutches to get Amelia back on her feet, it was then that the idea for Cool Crutches was born.
Clare’s career to that point had been in advertising and Amelia was a student at Edinburgh University. Whilst both were armed with enthusiasm, intelligence and persistence, neither had run a company before and both confess to a leap of ‘winging it’ to get them kick started. After sourcing a pair of plain black ergonomic crutches from a European supplier, Amelia was up and back to her physio with no more blisters!
With a new lease of life both Clare & Amelia felt there was more they could do. Armed with just this one pair it very quickly became apparent there was a demand for comfortable crutches and Amelia was inundated with requests to borrow her crutches and details of where they had come from. It was clear, there was a huge gap in the market.
Using information gathered from patients and friends, Clare & Amelia tweaked the design to add a comfortable grip to the ergonomic handle, arm cuff & most importantly developed a range of colours and patterns. Their mission was simple, to provide a better product with a better image to reflect a person’s personality not injury or disability. In the words of Harry Winston, “People will stare, make it worth their while.”
The duo kept the business simple and purse strings tight, launching a simple yet effective website and working with two main suppliers plus a dedicated fulfilment team. Both have remained keen to understand all elements of their business at all times to ensure either one can jump in and pick up the reins.
The company has gone from strength to strength and now has two main bases, one in the UK and another in the US. Whilst the design of the product was relatively winging it free, there is an undeniable requirement for leaps of faith every step of the way when they expanded. The US at first was an unknown entity and an enormous one at that. However, with support and advice from friends and colleagues, the set up in America was complete. As always, the learning curves were steep and fast but maintaining a flexible and receptive attitude kept them in good stead.
“Confidence in your product will fuel confidence in business and whilst you may need to ‘wing it’ occasionally, there will be plenty of people with plenty of experience who can help along the way” says Clare.
Clare and Amelia’s advice has always been ASK, ask your friends, ask your family, ask consumers, colleagues, businesses. The team have been overwhelmed with the support they have received and every time they’ve hit a bump in the road they’ve asked someone who has experience in that specific area and adjusted accordingly.
Always remember everyone started somewhere (even Bill Gates) and if all that’s in the way is a learning curve then what are you waiting for?!
Clare and Amelia. Bravo.