“Am I your only customer?” she innocently asked. Katie* was a sweet 22-year-old with Multiple Sclerosis (MS), a disease in which the body’s immune system attacks the Myelin sheath that coats nerve cells. Without this coating, nerve signals from the brain are compromised and the body’s muscles cannot work well.
While many U-Step customers are elderly and suffer from Parkinson’s, our mobility aids also help people of many ages with a variety of neurological conditions that affect walking and gross motor skills, such as MS.
Katie visited our Chicago office with her father to get set up with a U-Step. I tried not to show my sadness at seeing such a young person in need of a walker. I remember sitting with them and thinking about my own daughters who were close in age to Katie. I was struck by her bravery and determination in maintaining her mobility and her living her life to its fullest.
After a few years, Katie and her father returned to my office. Sadly, Katie’s MS had advanced to the point where she could no longer rely solely on her U-Step. She needed a wheelchair. Katie broke down and cried — she didn’t want one. Of course she didn’t.
Once again I found myself thinking of my four daughters and saw Katie’s sad eyes. I promised to make her a custom U-Step that could also be used as a wheelchair.
It took nearly a month to customize, but we did it. Katie returned with her father and smiled from ear to ear as we unveiled her new U-Step. “Am I your only customer!?” she asked when she realized how much work went into making her one-of-a-kind U-Step. Not only did the new combination walker/wheelchair help Katie manage her daily routine, but it also enabled her to join her family on an international trip.
A successful business considers the size of the market for each product they sell. In general, it does not make financial sense to make products that will only meet the needs of a small market, or even more so, just one customer. However, there are times that financial considerations take a back seat and you let your goodwill take over for the sake of a customer.
I founded In-Step to develop mobility solutions for people with neurological conditions. These conditions affect people differently, which required me to develop many products to meet their different needs. Almost every new product we developed started when one person came to us for help in walking and needed an adaptation to one of our products. After addressing the needs of this individual, it resulted in a product that would help many others.
For example, we created a U-Step with platform armrests to address the specific needs of one customer, and it has now become a mainstream product. Earlier this year we teamed up with Michael J. Fox and together, we created the LaserCue, a uniquely-designed device to help those with Parkinson’s Disease that suffer from gait-freezing. This was a direct result of a single inquiry from just one customer, (who just happens to be an internationally-known actor.)
I am proud to own and be a part of a company that puts people first. In-Step is a company with a heart for its customers, and each product reflects this mission. Many of you know the story of how In-Step began. It was borne out of my desire to give my mother the ability to walk with as much ease as possible. Every In-Step customer means as much to someone as my mother did to me. When I decided to manufacture the U-Step, I knew the importance of keeping the end-user front and center, so we could change lives.
If you have a U-Step story to share or an idea for customization, please be in touch. Your question, suggestion, or request could not also help us make you feel like “our only customer”, it could help change the lives of many others as well.
*Name was changed for privacy.