Tips on Creating a Business Born Out of My Needs as a Wheelchair User

By Louise Sertsis


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:
 

Find a Need
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.

Find Your Passion
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.

Seek Individuals with Experience in the Industry

Bill and Louise collaborating over lunch.
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.
So 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, 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.

Become a Sponge

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 have 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.

Adapt and Evolve
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!

Create a Business Plan 

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.

Partner with a Like Minded Go-Getter

Samanta Bullock with her Handi-Pac
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 modelling 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.

Don’t Give Up
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. Today's a new day and I’m trying to make other wheelchair users lives better by giving the gift of independence. See my latest news coverage on CTV here! My kickstarter will offer the Handi Pac at a promotional price vs my website. See Kickstarter here. Please be sure to visit my website at advancedfreedom.com if you require any further information.



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Danielle DeAngelis and Becoming Ms. Wheelchair Pennsylvania 2019


We at mobileWOMEN were thrilled to connect with this year’s Ms. Wheelchair Pennsylvania, Danielle DeAngelis! We asked Danielle to share her story and then answer a few questions to learn more about her platform, goals and motivation. In Danielle’s words:

My name is Danielle DeAngelis and I’m 27 years old from Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania. I graduated from Jim Thorpe Area High School in 2010. After high school, I attended Lehigh Carbon Community College studying early childhood education when my studies were cut short due to a horrific car accident that happened on March 7th, 2011. At only 19 years old, I sustained a spinal cord injury and I spent nearly three months in the hospital recovering. I had to learn how to adapt to a whole new life.

When I came home from the hospital. I spent years soul searching and trying to find my purpose in life, but I hit rock bottom. I was so depressed. I remember feeling so alone and not having anyone that I could talk to that could relate. I contemplated suicide more times than I can count. I was just so angry with what happened to me. This wasn’t what I imagined my future to look like. I always questioned “why” and It pained my heart, having to accept the fact that this is my life now.

"FLINTStoes" Rollin' On

By Patty Kunze, BSN, RNC and Roberta Palmer, RN 

The nurses writing for The Rollin’ RNs decide on topics based on our own findings. This topic is no different. You all know the story of my husband passing and how difficult it became to create meals and eat alone. Because of this, I decided to fill my fridge with frozen fast-fix meals. After several days of consuming that frozen food, I noticed my legs and feet were extremely edematous. Swollen to the point I was unable to put shoes on, “Flintstoes” you might call them. Upon investigating the sodium contents of some of those choices, I found one potato skin appetizer had 440 mg sodium in one skin. You can do the math in a portion and the other foods were no different. So, this Rollin’ RN is back to reading labels on food and eating plenty of fruits and vegetables. We will discuss dependent edema and what we can do to prevent them while sitting in our chairs.

Dependent edema is a condition in which there is an accumulation of fluid underneath the skin that causes abnormal swelling. This usually happens in areas of the body that are lower than the heart. Alright, that’s the official definition and it happens to all of us who live life in the sitting position for hours during the day, but why and how do you prevent it?


Dependent edema is caused by the effects of gravity and occurs when fluid pools in the lower parts of the body, including the feet, legs, or hands. Rereading that last sentence, GRAVITY is the cause. GRAVITY. Simple as that. GRAVITY. So now we know the cause but why? The blood is pumped back from feet toward the heart by the veins and the motion of the muscles. When this system malfunctions, the lower body parts begin to fill up with excess fluid, causing the swelling and puffiness of edema. OK, breaking that down, blood is pumped BACK from the feet toward the heart by the motion of the MUSCLES. There you go, our lower muscles forgot how to function as they once did. Because they don’t work as they once did prior to our spinal cord injury, the fluid that is caused by gravity to accumulate in our lower extremities doesn’t pump fluid back towards the heart.