President at Troy Technologies
Gary Barg: Nate Watkins, you are a true entrepreneur that's tinkering away making sure you build products that are important to family caregivers so I want to talk about one of these products now. How does a REVO Slim-Line differ from a standard wheelchair?
Nate Watkins: I guess the main difference is comfort and style. The REVO, is all about the user and has height adjustment, lumbar support and tilt recline. The padded seat is breathable fabric made for all-day seating. And, most importantly, it looks like a piece of furniture that belongs in your home. It's not a utilitarian style device and people just have a lot more confidence and comfort sitting in it.
Gary Barg: So why did you design the REVO Slim-Line?
Nate Watkins: Inspiration for the REVO came directly from our customers. We started to engage our customer base to learn about their needs and what we were hearing was that people's needs at home are not the same as when they're out. Wheelchairs may be ideal for going to the doctor's office or to restaurants or whatever but are way too bulky and cumbersome for the home. So we set out to create something that makes sense for the home. Mostly, people were looking for a wheelchair that was narrow enough to fit through the bathroom door and that's something that I knew we could do.
Gary Barg: I want to talk about that a bit. The thing that really thrills me about this, I know it's more comfortable, I know it's lighter, but it fits through a bathroom door. No one has really thought of that before that a wheelchair that you can actually wheel around the house and have it be convenient.
Nate Watkins: That's exactly it and we recognize it that there was a need out there. Not everyone is wheelchair bound and some people that are have to have their homes redone and the hallways widened, the doorways opened. Of course, that's an expensive endeavor. So we thought if we could make a little wheelchair that zips around the hallways and around corners and through bathroom doorways that could really be a great thing for people and I think the response to the product is so positive that we've definitely done something good.
Gary Barg: What are the caregivers telling you?
Nate Watkins: Oh they love it. It really is a godsend for many people who are simply in need of a little help around the house. The narrowness, the comfort, the ease of use have improved the quality of life for so many people and it's really gratifying to see. Our website has a few testimonials from satisfied customers. They can't stop raving about it. We have one customer that actually purchased three units, one for each floor of her three-story home. That's pretty cool.
Gary Barg: What is the website?
Nate Watkins: It is travelwheelchair.net. We have another product line, which is travel wheelchairs and that was really the product upon which the company was started. It was based on a line of lightweight compact folding travel wheelchairs and that's how we got off and running. Since that time, we've added the REVO chair, which is more of a home-based device. So the website is not necessarily lined up with our latest REVO chair.
Gary Barg: Now you have a wheelchair that they can easily travel with, easily fold up, it's very light, and then you go into the house and you have a wheelchair that's built for getting through doors and hallways. So that's kind of cool.
Nate Watkins: Most people would have their travel wheelchair in the trunk of their car and it's there when they need it. They go out to wherever and they can use it, but once you come home that travel wheelchair is probably not appropriate for the home because of all the things that I mentioned. So what most people do is use their REVO chair around the home and then when it's time to go out they’ll just leave their REVO by the front door and they go out and about and if they need it they have their travel wheelchair. But then, once they come home, they're back into their REVO and they can zip around their home.
Gary Barg: I'll tell you personally I have a loved one who took a tumble and the doctor ordered a wheelchair and this behemoth came into the house and so we ended up using the walker all the time. Nobody ever sat in that wheelchair and it went back pristine. I don’t even know how they got it in the front door, but it sat in the living room and I thought to myself you really want somebody to wheel around their house in this? You can't get it around the carpet. You have to actually pick it up, fold it up and get it through the door so nothing before this has ever made sense.
Nate Watkins: You’ve hit the nail on the head there Gary. It doesn’t matter how great a wheelchair is. If you can't fit it through a door, it's not going to get used and it will eventually become abandoned. I think you understand what we're going for here with the REVO Slim-Line.
Gary Barg: Now here's another sweet spot for me. I believe firmly that the REVO Slim-Line can help our loved ones who need it live longer, safer and better at home.
Nate Watkins: Yeah that's right. Almost everybody, regardless of age or health want to live at home and be independent and that's why the REVO Slim-Line was designed. The REVO, it's a great tool that helps to overcome many obstacles created by mobility limitations and not only does it offer independence and dignity for the use, it provides peace of mind for the loved ones and reduces the burdens associated with caregiving.
Gary Barg: That's nice, independence, reduce burden, peace of mind. That's like everything in a nutshell.
Nate Watkins: And dignity for the user.
Gary Barg: And dignity, well yeah, dignity is number one. Thank you for that. Thank you for that. You're exactly right. What's your background? How'd you get into creating the REVO product?
Nate Watkins: I've been in medical design my whole life. Much of my career was with a pediatric wheelchair company and that was incredibly gratifying. It was and continues to be my passion to find new solutions, practical solutions to people's needs.
Gary Barg: I know we're talking about the REVO Slim-Line, but tell me what else is coming up?
Nate Watkins: We have a few more versions of the REVO on the drawing board. We've got an ergonomic version coming and really excited about that. That's going to be pretty spectacular, but in addition to that our most popular product is the push-handle extenders. These are solely for the caregiver and basically raises the push handles of any wheelchair so the caregiver doesn’t have to stoop over to push.
Gary Barg: Let's talk about that a bit because that is the product that won one of our Today's Caregiver magazines Caregiver Family Awards this year for product and the judges were really taken by it because it's obviously made by someone who's thinking about helping caregivers.
Nate Watkins: The caregivers are the unsung heroes. Anything you can do to make that job easier is usually well appreciated. We designed the handle extenders to be a universal mounting mechanism. In other words, it'll work on almost any wheelchair and it simply clamps on. There's no holes to drill or anything like that. Clamp it on and you can stand up straight and you have better posture, better control of the wheelchair and at any point if you want to remove you just undo the little clips and off they come.
Gary Barg: So they can buy the REVO Slim-Line. They can buy the handle extenders, and they can buy the travel wheelchair all from that one website, which is called…
Nate Watkins: Travelwheelchair.net or you can just Google Troy Technologies and you'll find us that way.
Gary Barg: What's the one most important piece of advice you'd like to share with family caregivers?
Nate Watkins: Wow. I would say it is important to address these things early. Limited mobility is obviously it can threaten physical safety and emotional well-being. After all, being able to move around physically around your home or community, it's essential to daily life.