By Sean Meyer
It may have started out as a feasibility project for a group of second-year Western University students, but RollUP Solutions Inc. has quickly grown into a social enterprise making the world a more accessible place.
RollUP Solutions provides low-cost mobility devices — such as wheelchairs and walkers — to those in need.
The company accepts gently used mobility devices from the community that are then either sustainably recycled or are refurbished for sale. Once the devices are thoroughly inspected and cleaned, they are made available to people who need them at a 75 percent discount of the standard price.
Although only incorporated last summer, company co-founder and president Megan MacKay said she’s excited the company is set to make a real impact in the community.
“That first sale, it felt good; it was really exciting,” she said. “We had been working on this process for so long. We always believed it could work, but to see the person go away with the chair they needed was really exciting. We want to recreate that opportunity for more people in London.”
Megan explains her goal — and that of co-founder Leanne McKinnon — was to start a business that would be profitable, but also serve some kind of social need.
With that in mind, the company then collects devices from the community so they can divert them from ending up in a landfill, upcycles them, and makes them available to be purchased by people in need.
As they initially didn’t know how to upcycle a wheelchair, they eventually partnered with Goodwill Commercial Solutions to develop a standardized upcycling process to ensure every device that comes through the company is safe, clean and high quality. And because they work with Goodwill, they’re able to also create two hours of meaningful employment for every device that is upcycled.
They still had a long way to go before getting the company ready to go, which brought the RollUP team in contact with Innovation Works director Lore Wainwright, who Megan credits with getting her in touch with the Libro Social Enterprise Accelerator Program.
RollUP was accepted into the accelerator in mid-October and Megan said she’s been excited to be a co-tenant at Innovation Works ever since.
“I think, especially for social innovators, it’s amazing to be in this space,” she said. “Being surrounded by other people that are doing exactly what you’re trying to do, to use business, to use innovation, to solve social issues in the community, that’s really empowering.”
Participating in the accelerator workshops has been incredibly helpful, Megan said, as has been the team’s work with Pillar Nonprofit Network social enterprise coach Julie Forrester.
While the company has already produced a lot of excitement, and Megan is confident about the future, there remain some important unanswered questions.
Four members of RollUP’s core team are from Toronto and another is from Vancouver. While that’s one issue, so too is the fact half the team is soon to be graduating.
Even with those significant obstacles to deal with, Megan said she is hopeful the company’s vision will live on.
“If we had funding, we would definitely look at getting a desk and staying here. We’ve proven one model can work, but if we want to scale, we’d love to see a RollUP model exist in cities across Canada,” Megan said. “The focus for the next eight months is to sell as many wheelchairs in the London community and then we will see where we go from there.”
For more information, visit http://rollupsolutions.ca
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