I’m Gemma, of UK manufacturer Loopwheels. We make wheels with suspension in them, which reduce the vibration and jolting associated with using a wheelchair. I’m the “newbie” of the Kandu Group 😀
Loopwheels was invited to join the Kandu Group last year. I got a phone call one day from Steve at Spokz, who asked me if I’d be interested in joining. I’ll confess, at that moment, I wasn’t entirely sure what the Kandu Group was all about, so I asked Steve quite a lot of questions!
What is the Kandu group?
Steve explained that the group formed simply as a mutually supportive bringing-together of like-minded people from small businesses and organisations in the UK who work in the field of disability. There is no formal hierarchy or structure to the group, and it has no legal entity. The founder members of the group recognised that running any small business or charity is challenging and if you’re a small business owner, it can be lonely too. So having a pool of extra people around you with similar experiences, who you can bounce ideas off, can be really useful.
Most of the members of the group started their companies as a direct or indirect result of personal experience of disability, either for themselves or through a family member (or both!) Regular health and caring issues can add complications to the challenge of making a business successful, and it helps having a group of people around you who have similar experiences. There’s a strong ethos within the group of aiming to provide better new products, experiences and increased quality of life for our clients and customers. I guess the expression is “user-centric” – though I’m not a great fan of jargon.
Who is in the Kandu group?
There are currently 13 organisations in the Kandu Group. Some are companies selling specialist products, and some offer activities or services. We’re a manufacturer with an “inventor” founder: we make and sell the suspension wheels that we manufacture here in Nottinghamshire. Others carefully select a range of items that they have tested and believe will offer useful choices for their customers. Other members of the group provide professional services in fields such as design, architecture and therapy. Jack offers direct wheelchair servicing in and around London, Freedom Wheelchairs provide wheelchair training, Access Adventures and Adapt to Perform focus on getting people into physical sports and activities. So it’s a very diverse range of products and services, and we have quite a range of different skills between us. We are a mix of commercial businesses and not-for-profits, but we are all small and based in the UK. Some of us export our products or services to customers abroad, and some are much more UK or even locally based.
What am I getting out of being part of the Kandu Group?
Last autumn we planned and ran a series of Facebook Live events on the theme of “Making the Most of Now”. Three virtual events took place during the November lockdown. I hadn’t had any experience of organising or taking part in a virtual event of this kind before, but using the range of skills across the whole group we ran three great sessions and I felt I gained a huge amount of confidence as well as practical knowledge.
We share ideas and compare our thoughts on what’s worked well, such as the exhibitions and events that we’ve found are worth doing, or which social media platforms work best for our products. Being in a group can spark creativity that just wouldn’t happen if I were just sitting at my desk on my own or with my immediate colleagues.
Loopwheels has a great team, and we work with some fantastic distributors who make up our wider team outside the UK, but with just 5 staff including myself, we are small. It’s great to get to know new people, especially with such a pool of expertise. I think we all feel we learn from each other, and are stronger as a supportive group than working in our solo organisations. So I’m looking forward to our regular Zoom meetings this year, and hoping of course that we may one day actually be able to meet up face to face again! As we start 2021in a national lockdown, the feeling of solidarity that we carried through much of 2020 and the availability of being able to pick up the phone to talk to our friends and colleagues in the Kandu group will continue to be very important to us.
Gemma Pearce, Loopwheels