UI alums' company rank top ten in InnovateHER competition

Pictured+are+examples+of+IntelliWheels%27s+product+Fit+Grips%2C+which+make+moving+around+more+comfortable+and+easier+for+wheelchair+users.+Through+IntelliWheels%27s+website%2C+people+can+customize+the+size+and+color+their+products.
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UI alums' company rank top ten in InnovateHER competition

Pictured are examples of IntelliWheels's product Fit Grips, which make moving around more comfortable and easier for wheelchair users. Through IntelliWheels's website, people can customize the size and color their products.

Pictured are examples of IntelliWheels's product Fit Grips, which make moving around more comfortable and easier for wheelchair users. Through IntelliWheels's website, people can customize the size and color their products.

Pictured are examples of IntelliWheels's product Fit Grips, which make moving around more comfortable and easier for wheelchair users. Through IntelliWheels's website, people can customize the size and color their products.

Pictured are examples of IntelliWheels's product Fit Grips, which make moving around more comfortable and easier for wheelchair users. Through IntelliWheels's website, people can customize the size and color their products.

By Vivienne Henning

Siebel-Siero and Daigle competed in the University’s Cozad Business Competition in 2010 and won second place. They received a grant for $6,000 from Enterprise Works, and were later able to expand their company with a grant from the National Institutes of Health and other local investors.

Since the founding of IntelliWheels, Siebel-Siero and Daigle have added a few members to their team, including Paralympian Josh George, who is the product manager. George has been a member of the USA national paralympic racing team since 2004. He also works with disability advocacy organizations such as Easter Seals and SourceAmerica, according to the IntelliWheels website.

“We’re incredibly proud to be one of the top ten,” Daigle said. “Having this kind of recognition from the Small Business Association is wonderful validation. But the real validation, what we’re looking for, is from wheelchair users.”

IntelliWheels offers products like geared wheels and Fit Grips, which helps increase wheel grip for wheelchair users. The company has also developed a new custom online ordering system, Tinker, which gives people the ability to design their wheelchair online.

“The whole goal was to find easier ways for people who use wheelchairs to get around,” Daigle said. “We got to the point where we’re thinking not only of the design of the wheelchair, but of the design of the process that people get and design their wheelchairs. We sought to make a bigger impact in the industry, and in the lives of wheelchair users.”

Tinker is an online sale and educational platform aimed at enabling wheelchair users with information and giving them an active voice in the design and ordering process.

“Tinker is a stand-alone website that allows the users to build and modify their own wheelchair from the ground up in real time,” said Robert Kozarek, University alum and early Tinker user. “This places the power of the customization and build of the chair in the hands of the wheelchair user themselves — or at least allows the user to see what the end product will look like in real time — an aspect of using a chair that has never been offered before.”

When it launches in two months, Tinker will work alongside a wheelchair-producing company; the IntelliWheels founders are actively trying to get more companies loaded into their online catalogue.

“(We want) to give people the power of choice, the power of knowing what it is that they’re buying, and the power to actually have a preference, and have their voices be heard in the whole selection process of their wheelchair,” Daigle said. “It’s something that you will use every single day.”

In addition to expanding the number of companies in their catalogue, Siebel-Siero said the group hopes to have Tinker grow to include sport wheelchairs, wheelchairs for children and wheelchairs for older adults, making their services more widely available to wheelchair users.

“We hope Tinker becomes the gold standard in how all durable medical devices are bought and sold,” Siebel-Siero said. “We believe that an informed consumer is going to have a better purchasing experience and will be happier with their product when they are able to be a part of the ordering process.”

IntelliWheels’ success and expansion has enabled people on campus at the University, as well as in 13 other countries around the world, to use their products and services.

“Intelliwheels is an interesting company in that it is in the forefront of innovation in the mobility field,” Kozarek said. “The company has a great team with some exceptional minds driving it. I truly believe that the upswing is just beginning for Intelliwheels. And it’s kind of cool that it all started right here in Champaign.”

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