Special-Needs Business Profile: radrr
By Terri Mauro, About.com Guide Proprietor:
David Winegar and his business partner, Ioulia Torres, started radrr (the name is pronounced rader and means “more radical”) in August of 2010.
“radrr’s mission is to take some of the stigma out of having an insulin pump by covering it in something really cool.” Winegar says. “We want people to say not ‘What’s that?’ but ‘Wow, that’s cool!’ Our products are designed to be durable, functional, look great and be a great value.” The company donates 5 percent of all profits to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
“My son, Tomas, has two conditions that make him a special needs child,” Winegar explains.
“The first was diagnosed when he was three years old and is called Multiple Hereditary Exostoses (MHE or bumpy bones), which is a bone disorder that causes extra growth of bone in various parts of the body. It affects about one in 100,000 people. I am also the webmaster for the MHE Coalition, an information and support site for MHE. The second is type 1 diabetes, and he was diagnosed at age 6.” Design Inspiration:
“I was inspired to start this business when looking for a replacement for the insulin pump case that was given to us at the hospital,” Winegar recalls. “The one we had been using was very medical-looking, a white cloth case on a white Velcro belt. It looked just horrible. Searching on the net, I found a few cases, but they were targeted at very small children and the quality of the construction was low. Many of the companies that exist are sewing the cases at home from ordinary cloth material. I really wanted to find something that was ‘more cool.’ My son already has two life-long medical conditions. I didn’t want him to develop a stigma to having diabetes by drawing negative attention to it with an ugly medical-looking case, or to have him wear a very impractical leatherette type case that the insulin pump companies provided (which is designed for adults). I wanted to make something for him that would be fun and cool and that he could be proud of. So far, it seems to have worked. And because our cases are also perfect for mobile phones, MP3 players and cameras, he has been busy giving out ‘samples’ to all his friends!” Getting Started:
“Starting up has been actually quite fun,” Winegar reveals. “I searched the net for suppliers of cell-phone cases and came up with a few companies in China. I made contact with a couple of them, asked for quotes and went from there. I do all the designs myself, which I have some background in. I chose designs that were a little bit edgy and at the same time fun. The company we work with in China takes the designs and applies them to the surface of the fabric. We choose the colors and some design elements in-house. The delivered cases are better than I could have hoped for. The material is great, the colors stunning, and the designs look awesome on them.” Success Story:
Winger believes the business is already a success “because my son has so enjoyed using my designs and sharing them with his friends. He loves this business and is the main ‘salesman’ for us. I only hope that others will give our products a try and see the joy that it brings.” That’s been the hardest thing about the business so far, he says — “getting people to know that you even exist. Making the products and the Webstore is the easy part, promoting and getting people to look at your products is not easy and very time consuming.” It’s worth it, though, to “see the faces of the kids when they see the cases and use them — they just light up.”
Asked about future plans, Winegar says, “Our plans are to continue to bring out new products. We have already added a few including some fun enamel pins, Velstretch Velcro belts, and cooling/heating pads that work with our cases to help regulate the temperature of the pumps in extreme conditions. We are also planning to make our products more widely available by pursuing deals that will make it easier for people to find our products.”
More Inspiration and Advice from David Winegar:
How did your son’s diagnosis affect your family?
Both of the conditions when diagnosed were quite a shock for us. The MHE was such a rare condition and was something that was just a complete surprise. We later found out that it is a genetic condition and that it was my wife’s family that had the gene, but no one was ever diagnosed with it, and in her and her family members the condition has been very mild. My son has now gone through the first surgery (often people with MHE have multiple surgeries in their lifetime to correct growth problems) in the spring of 2010 where he had both of his arms operated on to remove growths and correct abnormalities.
The diabetes was also a shock. He had started to demonstrate some of the classic symptoms of the disease (drinking a lot, going to the bathroom all the time), and it was actually his grandfather (who has type 2 diabetes) who first mentioned that it might be diabetes. We were lucky that it was caught in time and he did not suffer any major medical problems leading up to the diagnoses.
Today we are living with both conditions. For the diabetes, it means watching carefully what we eat, being conscious all the time of the carbohydrates in foods, and being sure to eat at set times during the day. Tomas went on an insulin pump about a year ago. It has helped greatly to regulate the blood-sugar levels and relieve some of the stress of having to take insulin shots. It has also been nice that he is now able to eat more normally without having to worry about having to have another shot of insulin — he just needs to input the carbs into the pump!
Tomas is doing very well now (September 2010). He is quite a normal, active, child in all ways and we are very proud of him and the way he has handled both of his medical challenges.
Would you recommend that other parents start a business as you have?
I would recommend doing this sort of thing. If it is something that can benefit your child and others, go for it. That said, be prepared to put in the time and be very aware of the costs — this is true of starting any business. I am on my sixth start-up company, so speaking from experience. What advice would you give to other parents about raising a child with special needs?
My advice would be to help your child to live as “normal” a life as possible. I want all the best for my son and for him to have every opportunity possible open to him. I also hope in a small way these insulin pump cases give him a positive opening with people to talk about diabetes and what it means.