Amelia Peckham tells us about how setting up her own business helped her focus on the positive after a serious accident, why she finds being disabled empowering, and why her mum is her greatest inspiration.
How do you identify as disabled, and what does it mean to you?
Acquiring my disability at the age of 19 meant I had a pretty rude awakening to the stigmas surrounding disability. Being disabled is empowering: my disability has given me so much. It means everything to be part of a community that is so powerful.
Tell us a little about your business.
I founded Cool Crutches & Sticks in 2006 with my mum. We sell comfortable, colourful, safe and silent crutches and walking sticks that are designed to reflect the user’s personality and style ahead of their injury or disability.
Why did you start the business? Share your story so far.
In 2005, aged 19, I suffered a spinal injury following a serious quad bike accident. As a result, I became partially paralysed from my waist down and permanently reliant on crutches. During my rehab, I was given standard hospital crutches, but sadly realised very quickly that they weren’t suitable: they caused serious blisters that later became infected and saw me back on bed rest as opposed to thriving in physio!
My mum tried to find an alternative and we realised there weren’t any, so we decided to design, source and launch Cool Crutches. Fast forward 17 years and we have a very busy business that sells comfortable, silent, safe walking sticks and crutches in a wide range of colours and prints as well as offering the option to print any design onto them too!
What do you see as the main challenges facing your business and its continued operation or growth?
Because we want to help as many people as possible as quickly as possible, we deliver all our orders next working day to mainland UK, and our biggest obstacle is trying to deliver this internationally! We are constantly working on ways to make this better and more cost effective so we can offer our products to everyone. Whilst we ship internationally from the UK, we want to be able to do it faster and more cost efficiently, so this is something we are constantly working on.
The other dream is that we would love to create all mobility aids in a way that makes them safe, functional, comfy and still good to look at, but the reality is that we are so busy with crutches and sticks that we simply can’t do it all. We are developing a new range, which is very exciting, but in an ideal world we would be designing and launching new products all the time! Someone once said to me “The fastest way to get somewhere is slowly” and this is what we always try to prioritise: taking our time to make sure we get things 100% right before we launch is essential.
What can we do to encourage more disabled entrepreneurs to start businesses – what is holding them back and what can we all do to help change that?
Help raise awareness of disabled entrepreneurs who have taken the plunge: if we can see something, it is much easier to be able to aspire to it and I think we as disabled entrepreneurs need to keep talking and sharing as much as we can to help show everyone that there is power in disability and with a little flexibility, we can all start and scale businesses.
I think people often think running a business is risky, and risks may not be something our community would ordinarily sign up for. Whilst there are obviously risks, flexibility is something our community needs to be able to work effectively, and running your own business is about the very best way to achieve total flexibility when it comes to working. I firmly believe online resources are integral to helping disabled founders start and grow: resources like Digital Boost, for example, are phenomenal and allow anyone to build their business from home but with support from experts via Zoom.
What do you consider your greatest achievement or the proudest moment in your life so far?
This is a tricky one. I think becoming a parent will always be my biggest achievement. It goes against everything I was told when I was in hospital and all my fears following my accident, so it has been quite a long and winding road, but I am very, very lucky and proud to say I have two sons who are now 5 and 3 and I love being their mum!
If there was one thing you could change about peoples’ perception of disability, what would it be and why?
That it’s a positive. It is something that is so often perceived as a negative, that we are tragic and all sitting at home crying into cups of tea under a blanket, wishing our lives were different. It couldn’t be further from the truth.
Disability is a power: it gives you an unbelievable sense of compassion, understanding, resilience, focus and drive. We are a force of good, sense and power, and the sooner this becomes integral to every business, city, country and community, the sooner people will realise living without exposure to disability is the real negative.
Who or what inspires you?
My mum! In the face of serious adversity when I had my accident, it was my mum who not only kept us both sane, but suggested setting up our business.
After my accident, I was advised to take a year out from uni to recover, do rehab, learn to walk and live in my very new and very different shoes. It was mum who saw the potential in setting up the business, not only to help other people like me, but to help us and everyone around us to focus on something positive. In the wake of my accident, the focus shifted from “Oh no, will she ever walk again?” to “Oh wow, how will you launch the business?”
My whole outlook on my personal circumstances, business and life is thanks to my mum, and our success is too!
Do you have a recommendation for a book or a podcast which has helped you along your journey?
I love Diary of a CEO, it is always so fascinating to hear how incredibly successful people have got to where they are – often through mistakes, adversity and resilience. I think learning from other people is about as good as it gets, so listening to how other people navigate hurdles to succeed is like gold dust for me!