Keane sisters turn wheelchairs into fashion statement

They say by doing what you love, you inspire and awaken the hearts of others and the founders of Izzy Wheels, Ailbhe Keane and Isabel Keane, have successfully achieved it. The Irish startup with the tagline – ‘If you can’t stand up, stand out!’ is turning the wheelchair spoke guards into a fashion statement with their colorful and unprecedented designs.

Launched in September 2016, Izzy Wheels has already sold hundreds of spoke guards, worldwide, and have also bagged many awards for their innovative idea.

“Izzy Wheels started off as a college project for me. My background is graphic design and I was in National College of Arts and Design, Dublin. In my final year I came across a brief which asked me to empower the lives of people living with a long-term lifestyle related health condition and immediately I thought of my sister Izzy. As a little girl, Izzy always loved dressing up her wheel chair because it always created lot of positive attention for her and gave her a confidence boost. So as my college project, I started to customize Izzy’s wheelchair and applied my illustration and animation skills to the wheelchair. The idea was to transform a medical device into something trendy, fashionable so that you can make a statement about yourself,” said Ailbhe Keane, Izzy Wheels founder and Creative Director.

“As soon as I finished college, I linked up with Enterprise Ireland who gave me business mentoring and office space.So it helped me to transform a project into a business,” adds Ailbhe.

Izzy wheels

Their video on Youtube by Insider Art has more than 11 million views, they have more than 225 million followers on instagram and also have ‘Accenture Leaders of Tomorrow Award’ in their kitty. “It just started off as something between us but as soon as we started posting online, we received messages from wheelchair users all over the world wondering where they could get these designs. And from there it just took off,” says the elder sister Ailbhe.

As far as their bonding is concerned, sisters-turned-business partners say that nothing has changed between them after the launch of Izzy Wheels. “We have always been very close. It’s a family thing now. We spend a lot of time together anyways, so we may as well do something useful and productive,” says Izzy Wheels’ Brand Ambassador, Isabel Keane on their new relationship as business partners.

Isabel always had a very positive relationship with her wheelchair and disability, and a lot has changed in her life after she started personalizing her wheelchair. “I now see strangers on street smile at me rather than looking at me in a pitiful way. They like the design and colors and it has now become a conversation starter,” adds Izzy.

On being asked about the fears that they might have before starting the business, Ailbhe confidently replies, “Not really, I never had any fear going into it because I had been working on the designs for four years in the college. I am 24 and Isabelle is 20 so we have nothing to lose.”

In the beginning, spoke guards were being shipped to UK and Ireland only but after the social media boom, Izzy Wheels reached new heights. Now, 80 per cent of their sale comes from US.

Talking about their happy customers, worldwide, the Keane sisters told us about the reaction and appreciation they get from their customers. “Often people buy Izzy Wheels as a gift for someone and so christmas was really big for us last year. It was the best christmas ever because we got so many photographs sent to us by people with their new wheels on. And seeing how happy those people are, really inspired and motivated us to do our best,” said Ailbhe.

Other than the spoke guards the Keane sisters will soon be launching matching accessories to go with the wheels such as umbrella, earrings and lot more in their upcoming projects.

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Neha Katoch
Neha Katoch

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