Starting your own business: we talk to disabled athlete turned entrepreneur

Starting your own business: we talk to disabled athlete turned entrepreneur

Disabled athlete Arielle combined her love of sports and business to create her company, Ingenium, which makes wheelchair racing gloves. Read more to learn about her successful business that started as a simple school project, and how she worked to get to this point.

Two years ago I took an introductory course on 3D printing at the University of Illinois. I was a business major at the time, so was worried I wouldn’t have enough skills to be successful at it. But I was surprised at just how intuitive the software was. It was amazing watching something I’d created on the computer coming to life before my very eyes.

Disabled athlete ArielleDuring the course we talked about all the ways 3D printing can be used to improve people’s lives, and immediately the disability community came to mind.

3D printing is unique because you no longer need a huge manufacturing line to be efficient. Individual, unique products can now be made from the same machine, and customisation is quick and simple.

Because every disability is so different, it is plausible that companies could modify products so they meet individual customer’s needs, whether they have cerebral palsy, a spinal cord injury, or are an amputee.

For a long time I have thought about creating things that might help the people around me, and that is how I started my business, Ingenium. Ingenium means ability in Latin, and I want the products I create to bring out the inherent ability in everyone, no matter what their bodies look like or how they work.

Right now Ingenium manufactures wheelchair racing gloves. I chose to create racing gloves because the cost of equipment for this sport is a huge barrier to entry for many people with disabilities. For example, a racing chair costs about $5,000.00 USD (around £4,100), and a pair of tires is alone almost $200.00 (£165).

The only gloves on the market are $160.00 (£130) per pair, but my gloves range from only $50.00 to$100.00 (£40 to £82), depending on the size. My 3D printed gloves are also much lighter and so could help prevent common athletic injuries, such as tendonitis.

Disabled athlete Arielle

My hope is that these gloves will help make the sport more affordable and more people will be able to get involved. In the future, I plan on creating many different 3D printed products for people with disabilities, both to help them travel and/or compete in a variety of sports.

Starting my own business has definitely been scary. As an entrepreneur you’re taught to not be afraid of failure – to achieve success you must embrace failure with open arms. I have come across many obstacles and challenges, and I know this is only the beginning.

I was surprised to recently learn that people with disabilities are twice as likely to start their own business as able bodied people are. At first, I thought this couldn’t be true, considering our unemployment rate is almost double what the national average is.

But then I heard something that made a lot of sense – people with disabilities are used to facing adversity. We’re used to having to speak out for our rights, and we’re used to adapting to function in the world around us. This remarkable adaptability and perseverance are the exact qualities it takes to be a successful business owner.

Disabled athlete Arielle

When people ask me how I started a business at 22, my answer is; “it’s a lot easier than you think, and you can do it too!” I encourage everyone, disabled or not, to go out and create. It can be a song, recipe, painting, a garden, anything…. Once you have, take that creation and find a way for it to help people. That’s how Ingenium was formed, and that will be our mission from here on out!

For more information on Arielle and her business, Ingenium, visit: www.ingeniummanufacturing.com

By Arielle Rausin

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