We sell Neo York walking sticks on our website. These fabulous sticks are the brain-child of Lyndsay Adams. She makes each stick to order and offers a choice of handle size and stick height as well as a series of eye-popping colours. There are even two transparent sticks for days when you wish your stick was invisible.
We have been selling these sticks for a while now and I just recently found an inspirational article about Lyndsay on a site called Muzo World, please read it below:
For our latest innovation spotlight, we chat to Lyndsay Adams of NEO York about her business, and life after working as a trapeze artist at the Paralympics in 2012. Lyndsay talks about how that opportunity happened for her, as well as the foundations of her business, and plans for the future.
Muzo] Can you tell us a bit about your business and who you are?
L] “I’m Lyndsay Adams, and currently I have my own business called Neo York. I manufacture and sell my own range of coloured stylish acrylic walking sticks.”
Muzo] Can you tell us about yourself, your disability, and some of the highlights of your journey?
L] “I’m an above-knee amputee. I lost my leg in 2010. I was poorly in 2006 and caught an MRSA infection while having an operation in hospital. It progressed into the bone in my leg, leaving me with a severely disabled leg that I couldn’t stand on. I lived with it for four years, and then I told them to get rid of it, because it was holding me back, dictating my life, and it was the best thing I’d ever done. I walk with prosthetic leg and use a wheelchair, because I have arthritis in my other knee. I walk as much as I can, but when I can’t I sit in a chair. I don’t grumble about it because I’m still here, and I’m healthy, with a lot to be thankful for. It didn’t ruin my life, all it did was change it. After I lost my leg I joined an agency called ‘Amputees In Action’, who provide all sorts of work for amputees. I did a couple of interviews for newspapers for them, and then I got an email from them one day saying that the Olympic Committee were looking for amputees to take part in the Paralympic ceremony. I was saying yes to everything at this point, because I never knew what was gonna come around the corner. They hoisted me up about eight metres in the air and asked me to do somersaults and twists and turns. I had to commit to four months of performing, so we moved down to London from York for that time, and stayed down there, and I took part in the opening ceremony, and they asked me to do another stunt in the closing ceremony, and I said yes to that.”
Muzo] Opportunities can come from anywhere!
L] “They do. You’ve just got to seize them, because you never know when you’re gonna get the chance. That’s what I do, and it’s led me all over the world now.”
Muzo] How did you make the jump and make these big decisions?
L] “You just have to feel the fear and do it anyway. When we got lifted up for that opening ceremony, on that first somersault, it was very surreal. It was every emotion you could imagine, it was scary, exciting, very overwhelming, and afterwards I just burst into tears. Looking at it now, it’s like it happened to someone else, and I’ll never forget it. But everyone feels the fear of doing something new. To commit to it, I had to know that I could allow myself to fail. I’m all about progress, but I had to be realistic.”
Muzo] When did you decide that the Neo York business was an opportunity you could take?
L] “The hole in the market became obvious to me when I wanted something myself, I was getting married and I knew I was gonna be using sticks to walk down the aisle, and I didn’t want something that was going to look out of place with the wedding dress and the surroundings so I made myself a walking stick made of clear acrylic. I made it in the oven, it was very basic, but it worked. Then I started making them for people, and decided to make a business out of it.”
Muzo] What’s the process you go through when you make them?
L] “I came up with the process myself. You can’t just patent one and say “I invented the walking stick”. Having practiced making one for myself I knew that the plastic would melt at a certain temperature. But you don’t want it to melt, you want it to become malleable, so I had an oven customised. It’s a normal domestic oven with customized doors on the front to allow me to slide the rods in so only the front part of the rod gets heated up. It’s heated until it becomes a malleable state, and then I have jigs with very specific measurements so the handle width is correct. We’ve got one that’s a perfect arc, we’ve got a square one, we’ve got a wider one for bigger hands – We had to come up with different features that people might require. They’re not very fancy but they work a treat, made out of wood. I whip them out of the oven, mold them on the jig, then I cool them as quickly as I can. Then you’re down to polishing, which is the thing that takes time, because that’s the finishing, and makes it look really nice. And cutting for size, obviously, so if people have measurements I can cut the stick to size, or if they want to give one as a gift and they don’t know what size it needs to be we recommend they order a long one, and they can cut it themselves. It’s a simple process, the only thing that’s really different about this is the thought that went into choosing the material. People don’t always put that thought in.”
Muzo] What’s been the highlight of your business with NEO?
L] “The scary part was committing the money. There was a big initial outlay to stock up on rods because that was expensive, and to launch the business in the way that I wanted. That took a deep breath. But after that the biggest highlight was when my first order came in. I thought it was a joke because it was only a week after I’d set the website up. That was an absolute buzz. Another highlight was a celebrity user, I‘ve got Craig Revel Horwood using one, he sent me a signed book to say thank you. It’s a good feeling, really touching. Also I recently got an e-mail that made me cry, this lady who told me what a tough journey it had been, and this stick had given her new confidence. It just brings tears to my eyes, I didn’t think that something so simple could change your attitude.”
Muzo] What kind of people come to you? You must get quite a diverse range of buyers.
L] “Everybody, from 18 to 84. A lot of elderly people get them as gifts. Women haven’t been the multiple buyers, it’s been men, who order all these bright colours. I didn’t expect that. There’s this man in Knaresborough who gets stopped in the street and asked about his stick, which is fabulous because he’s looking for a lady. It’s a bit of a ‘pulling’ stick.”
Muzo] What are your key tips for business success?
L] “Your website is paramount. It has to be stylish and easy to use, and you’ve got to price your goods well. There’s no point overpricing it because you just won’t sell any. Research your market, put yourself in your customers’ shoes. Be quick to respond, be polite, price your postage correctly.”
Muzo] Is geography and travelling a factor in business success?
L] “If you are disabled you have to be prepared to accept help. A lot of people are too independent to accept it. I had to accept that sometimes I need people to help me carry stuff, I need people to push me in a wheelchair. When I was suffering from confidence issues I needed someone to go out with me. Geographically a lot of business success boils down to your internet presence, because that has no geography. Networking is how I’ve found my success. But physically, accept the help.”
Muzo] What are your plans for 2014?
L] “I’m hoping to push the business even further out there. I’m part of a group called Made in Yorkshire, and I did one show with them in York in Parliament Square, that made me get out there, talk to people, show them what the sticks look and feel like, and gives people the chance to open up, ask me questions and talk about their own experiences – I’m doing more shows with them this year. But you have to get out there and be your own advert. This year there’ll be some performing as well.”