A young woman decided to help her wheelchair-using sister get a new look … and an award-winning brand was born.
Necessity is often the mother of invention. In the case of the new Izzy Wheels brand, the necessity arose within a family. A young teenager named Isabel wanted to express her personality not only through clothing but also through her wheelchair, which was an integral part of her image.
“My younger sister was born with spina bifida and has used a wheelchair since childhood,” said Ailbhe Keane, founder and creative director of Izzie Wheels. “When she got older, she was frustrated that there were so few options to personalize her wheelchair.”
Creativity is intelligence having fun.
Ailbhe was always interested in art and design. During her last year of studying at the National College of Art and Design in Dublin, she decided to fulfill her sister’s dream and designed a collection of stylish wheel covers for her wheelchair. She called it Izzie, a diminutive of Isabel, her sister’s name.
Now Isabel can easily customize her wheels according to her needs. The creative sisters decided to share their idea with others, and thus the art project evolved into a business.
Today Izzie Wheels is a platform where clients can choose from hundreds of designs. Among them are graphics created by great illustrators like Peter Donnelly, Fuchsia Macaree, Steve Simpson, Paula McGloin, and a Polish artist Karol Banach, whose designs will be released soon.
When asked why he decided to take part in the initiative, Banach said, “I received an email, and I thought, why not if it will make someone happy?” What will appear on the wheels of his design? “I can only tell you that there will be an entire family of creatures that are supposed to make everyone smile. I wanted to help, and if I can do so through a drawing, so much the better! For me, it’s an honor. I hope the owner will like it and it will brighten his or her day.”
Proceeds from the sales of those limited-edition wheel covers will be donated to foundations supporting people with spina bifida.
It’s not difficult to imagine that the idea delighted not only wheelchair users — 40,000 in Ireland alone and over 640,000 in Europe and the USA. The business world also appreciated the creativity, execution, and potential of the Irish women. They have been in business only nine months and already received four awards for entrepreneurship, including a bronze medal in the PRODUCT category in the Bank of Ireland Startup Awards 2017 competition, plus a first place award in the prestigious Accenture Leaders of Tomorrow 2017 competition.
“Until now wheelchair users have frequently been ashamed or embarrassed because of their ugly vehicles. The award will help us to further overcome the stigma of people of people using wheelchairs and will allow them to express themselves better,” said Ailbhe during the announcement of the result.
We are crossing our fingers for the young women’s mission, and we encourage you to share this story. Perhaps there are people among you who will appreciate this small but significant change that can bring so much energy and joy.