January 8, 2019
On Thursday, we announced our December Amber Grant Finalists.
Today, we’re excited to reveal the $1,000 recipient and the 1st qualifier for our $10,000 year-end Amber Grant. Congratulations to Kelly Twichel, Co-Founder of Access Trax.
Their signature product — Beach Trax — is the only foldable, lightweight and temporary pathway designed to provide access over uneven terrain such as sand, gravel, dirt, or grass. In our interview below, Kelly shares how the idea came about, supplies advice for other aspiring entrepreneurs, and more.
Editor’s note: Video was submitted on March 24
Imagine it’s a beautiful Saturday morning and you’re out surfing with your friends. You drop in on a wave and fall off your board, getting swept up in the wave. Suddenly, you know something is very wrong as you hit the sandy ocean bottom. You have suffered a spinal cord injury and can no longer control your legs. Your whole life is now changed, and you will have to overcome many more obstacles than you would have as an able-bodied individual. One of the cruelest barriers is that now you cannot cross the sandy beach in your wheelchair to get closer to the water that you love so much. This can isolate you from spending time with your friends and family – and makes getting back to (adaptive) surfing much more difficult.
That is where Access Trax comes in.
Now, the World Health Organization defines a disability as a product of the interaction between a person and their environment. If we can modify this interaction we can dissolve the disability, and that is exactly what Beach Trax does. It is essentially a portable sidewalk that can easily be deployed and transported for personal or event use. Thirty linear feet of pathway folds and stacks into less than three inches high, weighing only fifty-five pounds! The applications are limitless: events, personal use, resorts, outdoor therapy, ADA compliance, etc. It is not just useful for people who use wheelchairs – the stable pathway is preferred by people with walkers, strollers, carts, canes, or just feet!
The idea stemmed from a class project while in school for Occupational Therapy in 2016. A classmate (now co-inventor and business partner) and I took on the challenge to engineer a product that would help local adaptive surfers cross the sand in their chairs with dignity and independence. Our humble hand-made prototype from Home Depot materials proved itself as 5 adaptive surfers used it to cross the sand at a local competition a few weeks later. That day, my partner Eric and I knew we couldn’t stop after only helping 5 people. We had to turn this into a viable business that could help solve the problem of outdoor inaccessibility for millions.
After earning our Master’s degrees as OT’s, Eric and I officially formed Access Trax in February of 2018. We are proud to produce Beach Trax in the USA and have been growing the business through product sales and event rentals. I consider my customers my friends and family, and I now have family in places like Hawaii, Mexico and Japan. In 2019, I will travel to places like Panama and Costa Rica to volunteer at adaptive surfing events and advocate for outdoor accessibility. I have worked with the most amazing people because of Beach Trax, and I am on a mission to share my product and dream with as many people as I can.
Our initial target market includes families of individuals with physical challenges that are active (or who want to become active) in outdoor recreation. It also includes non-profits and businesses that serve the adaptive surfing and watersports community, since their mission aligns so well with ours. There is a huge world-wide movement in adaptive surfing alone, with surfing being projected to be accepted into the Paralympics in the coming years.
We have just begun our second phase of marketing which includes local government and resorts that are in need of becoming more inclusive and ADA compliant. It is really exciting to get the interest of people in places around the world such as Australia, South Africa, England, and Canada.
We volunteer constantly. I think that is my favorite part of my job: I get to interact with people face-to-face and witness their joy when they experience the outdoors with less barriers. We have volunteered at numerous adaptive surfing events (Stoke for Life, Waves4All, the Hawaii Adaptive Surfing Championships, the World Adaptive Surfing Championships, Life Rolls On) and community events like the Junior Adaptive Sports Camp.
Our next event is in Oceanside at the January 19th Stoke for Life adaptive surfing clinic.
I would tell anyone who wants to start their own business that it will seem overwhelming, but it IS achievable. Staying organized and finding the right mentors will help you immensely. I think I’ve used the SCORE resource (Service Corps of Retired Entrepreneurs) 20 times in the last year for things like my business canvas model, taxes, partnership questions, and sales and distribution. Also, don’t forget to set aside time for yourself! Finally, have fun sharing and celebrating your little (and big) victories with friends and family.