Clare Edwards, a wheelchair user since a car accident in her teens, is the founder of Trabasack Products. Clare’s aim is to create innovative products that are inclusive and useful to everyone whatever their age or ability. Her first design is the multi-award winning Trabasack, a laptray and travel bag.
Trabasack enables the user to eat, drink, work or play wherever they are by providing a flat tray surface. Trabasack is also an easy to carry, travel bag with many ergonomic design features. It has won several awards for its unique design, and is now being sold globally through a network of distributors.
I spoke to Clare about her entrepreneurial journey.
First of all, I asked Clare where the idea for Trabasack came from.
“As a wheelchair user I had often found myself in situations where I needed to balance things on my lap. It has been an ongoing irritation. Then my first son developed health problems that meant he had to use a wheelchair for a while. He wanted to play and this was difficult using a conventional lap tray as things kept slipping. This was the impetus to get started as I was sure that there was a gap in the market for something that would be like a laptray but which could clip to a wheelchair and be easily carried, like a messenger bag or a rucksack.”
“I had the seed of the idea in 2006 and applied for a grant in 2007. This allowed me to dedicate two years to research and development of the product, which was launched in 2009. We launched originally into the healthcare market as I knew there was a real need here and that we could attract higher margins than if we launched in the general travel accessory market. Our USP was that Trabasack was the cheapest lap table available for wheelchairs. While wheelchair use was the prompt to start the business and while we did launch into the healtcare market we always saw Trabasack as being a poroduct with much wider appeal – a design for all.”
And what made you think that you could design this product?
“I’d grown up in Zambia and had done a lot of travelling so I felt that I knew what was needed in a travel bag to make it easy to carry and easy to use. Also in Zambia people are always making things so cutting and sewing and making prototypes came naturally to me. I’d been a mosaic artist and sculptor for a number of years so I knew I had an eye and a talent for good design. And finally I was sure that there was a gap in the market based upon my own needs as an artist and wheelchair user.”
And what about the future?
“As I said before, the Trabasack is based on Design For All principles and we are not producing products solely for the healthcare market. I’m an experienced traveller and busy mum and will continue to design and develop innovative products that are adapted to suit my active lifestyle.”
” My biggest challenge so far has been to ensure that the volume, consistency and quality of work needed to create a successful business is achievable despite living with a disability. I have a strong internal drive and desire to be successful, I am goal focussed and strict on time management. I have had to learn about marketing, sales, website design, manufacturing and logistics in a short space of time. Applying these new skills, whilst maintaining a professional standard throughout, is, at times, very tough. I have focussed on my strengths such as design and creative work. Living with a disability means that you are always striving to adapt your environment to make life easier. It means you become a natural designer and inventor through your own needs.”
Clare has been mentored and taught by some leading professionals to help grow her business. She was became an UnLtd Level 2 Award Winner in Autumn 2009. UnLtd, the charity for social entrepreneurs has provided practical help and business development support enabling Clare to access experienced mentors for advice and guidance. Through support from UnLtd, she attended the MADE festival for Entrepreneurs in Sheffield. She also attended ex-Dragons Den investor, Doug Richard’s School 4 Start Ups 48hr Boot Camp receiving expert and pithy advice from the Californian serial entrepreneur and his team of specialists. Clare was also shortlisted for Stelios Award for Disabled Entrepreneurs in the UK 2010. The judges are looking for entrepreneurs that have taken personal and financial risks to see their business ambitions realised and demonstrated an inspirational, positive approach to running a business, and living life, with a disability.
We wish Clare luck as she continues grow her business and to develop new products. Prototypes of two new designs have been made and will be launched next year.