Inspiration can strike anybody at any time. Sometimes it’s as a result of negative events where we’re seemingly given a ‘silver lining’ to consider, or it may just be something that somebody says in passing. The trick is to act on it rather than let it ﬁzzle out into nothing…
After breaking his back from falling out of a tree, Andrew Slorance remembers feeling “stripped” of his identity, not least because of the “horrible” design of his ﬁrst wheelchair and swore to himself that he’d one day, design something better.
Your starting point was nothing short of a very bold statement…
I couldn’t understand why product designers couldn’t make a nicer product and I swore that one day I would design a wheelchair that would be a cool, desirable piece of tech.
It didn’t occur to me just how big a task it was going to be. I wasn’t particularly knowledgeable about product development or what it was going to involve but I embraced the creative challenge with enthusiasm. I designed the Carbon Black wheelchair as my ﬁrst product and that was a massive journey. I ultimately left Carbon Black in the hands of the investors who could look after it and run the business as they wanted to. There were still things that I wanted to design, I really enjoyed the process of creating products that make a difference.
Using a wheelchair for years, it makes you think a lot; problem solving… You have to improvise solutions. I improvised a trolley that attached to my wheelchair for my gear. So once I’d ﬁnished with Carbon Black I thought about it again and about how I could turn it into a piece of luggage.
It takes all the stress and anxiety of how you move your gear around. It’s a very simple product and we’re expecting our stock delivery in February. It should then be available on Amazon so I’m looking forward to what I might be developing next.
So you want to be an inventor not an entrepreneur?
I enjoy the entrepreneurial process but being an entrepreneur is very hard. People see it as a sexy word but the reality is that every single day is a struggle. The point about being an entrepreneur is about doing something that nobody else has done.
It’s risky and stressful. Designing products is where you sit down with a computer and create a part and then put it in the 3D printer and it gives immediate satisfaction – so I do like that part. You have to have both together.
Disability, it seems, is your inspiration – but what are the challenges of being a disabled person in business?
The whole business thing is relentless and is mentally and physically demanding. When I deal with businesspeople and investors, I don’t expect any special treatment. It’s not like working for a big corporation whereby if you’re having a bad day, sometimes you can take some time out. You just can’t do that as a self employed business person, and it is hard.
I make my own path. I’ve turned a negative (using a wheelchair) into a positive because I’ve created my own. I take my experience as a wheelchair user into doing something that’s going to help other people.
Phoenix Instinct is a name I came up with (for the luggage product) because when you’ve been through a life-changing injury you have to face adversity, every day… Dust yourself down, get back up and carry on! www.phoenixinstinct.com