“From as early as I can remember I’ve always wanted to know how things work.” – Chris Swift
This passion took me to University to study engineering, but after six months I suffered a neurological syndrome which left me paralysed. A year in intensive care and 2 years in rehab later I was lucky enough to return to the same university as their first quadriplegic student, and complete my degree.
A Masters degree followed which developed into a doctorate with research into countryside access for wheelchair users.
During this research work I had the idea for a new type of all terrain wheelchair and in 2005 I founded a company to manufacture and sell the chair. This business grew over the next years until the latest chair design was purchased by another company in 2016..
My fascination with how things work has proved equally useful in engineering new wheelchairs as unravelling business problems and managing teams.
I have found other people’s perceptions of my abilities as a quadriplegic can be a challenge, particularly when I was pitching for equity investment. The solution is to pre-empt and clearly address any concerns straight off, to show your strengths and what you can do.
As a quadriplegic you depend on a good working relationship with those around you for your quality of life. These “people skills” have proved invaluable in business, particularly in terms of employing good people and building a motivated team.
I’m currently working on using my skills and experience to help other start-up businesses get off the ground, particularly those founded by disabled entrepreneurs.
My Plus would be resilience, combined with small business experience and a lifetime of people skills.