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Meet Lyndsay, award winning founder of “Neo Walk”, makers of beautiful, handmade walking sticks

Neo Walk make and send beautiful walking sticks all over the world. Founder Lyndsay Mitcheson is on a mission to see disability normalised and for designers to embrace different needs in mainstream products. Neo walk continue to innovate and create beautiful walking sticks, giving people everywhere confidence and style.

We spoke to Lyndsay on becoming an amputee, winning awards and her Hollywood customers!

Lyndsay please tell us about your life and journey to launching Neo Walk Sticks.

“It’s been unconventional, I think is how you can describe my life! I had arthritis from a teenager, in my knees mainly and ultimately in 2007 I had a knee replacement which went wrong. I underwent more surgery in 2008, which left me with an MRSA infection. This was at the time when there was a lot of MRSA going around hospitals. It was a really bad time which left me very ill. Ultimately, in 2010, I opted to have my left leg amputated above the knee. Now, a lot of people say ‘oh, that must have been the hardest decision ever that you could make in your life.’ Surprisingly it wasn’t because I had pretty much lost use of the leg three years previously when I was ill. So that helped me make the decision, but it was still a long journey to go as an amputee. That’s really how I ended up in the physical condition that I am.

Business wise. It was another story altogether because I was just your average amputee. I was in my forties, using a prosthetic leg and I was still very active. But I sometimes needed to use a walking stick and I couldn’t see anything I liked.  I couldn’t see anything that looked like it belonged with me. So, I made my own!  I think a lot of small businesses are born from that; you know necessity is the mother of all invention kind of philosophy. If it’s not out there, you make it yourself and it just happened to turn into a business. That is in a nutshell is how I ended up where I am.

Continue reading or watch the full interview here

What was the inspiration behind your first walking stick?

You go through a lot of body image changes as an amputee, especially as a younger woman. So, I had to come to terms with a lot of things, how I looked and how I felt. At the time I wanted to be invisible.

I didn’t want anybody to look at me. Didn’t want to be conspicuous, but as a woman with one leg, you naturally kind of are. I wanted a walking stick that would be invisible too, that way nobody would see me using it.

That was when I came up with the idea of the clear acrylic. And I made a clear one and I made a red one in my kitchen at home. I moulded the handle around a wine bottle, because that gave me the perfect curve that I needed. It was just the perfect size and that was literally how it began.

I went out and I walked with my sticks. People kept saying, “Oh, look at those. I love your walking stick. It’s so good” And even some people were saying, “why do you use it?” And I’m there with a prosthetic leg hanging out of my trousers, you know, and people didn’t look, they just didn’t care. All they wanted to know about was the stick.

And that was when I thought, if I’m feeling that effect, other people could have that feeling too. So that was where the business was born, but the walking sticks were created because I wanted something nice.

Something nice, a bit sexy and a bit sassy!

Was there a WOW moment when you thought we’ve got something special here

Yes! There was a couple of moments actually. I remember going into a really bougie kind of interior store. Going in and the lady behind the counter saying “I love your walking stick. Where did you get it?”

I explained that I make them myself and she said, “sell them to me and I’ll sell them in this shop!” I thought, Whoa, my goodness. That’s quite an offer that someone likes them enough to want to sell them on my behalf. That was a big moment and I stored that, thinking actually that could be another avenue as well. That was one of the wow moments.

Also, when I checked the orders one morning and Selma Blair had ordered. And I thought, well, we’ve arrived! When people are ordering from Hollywood. The same happened with Christina Applegate as well, those were wow moments for the business, for sure.

Click here to see more of Neo Walk on Instagram.

Tell us about the #FUMS partnership with Christina Applegate

After Christina started using our walking sticks, we came up with an idea to create a walking stick that would raise money for MS charities. A lot of our customers are younger people living with Multiple Sclerosis and it’s something that we wanted to support.

We also support cancer research through one of our other walking sticks, so it wasn’t the first time that we’ve done it. We created the #FUMS walking stick with Christina, she wanted to portray what she felt about MS it wasn’t pink and frilly, it was dark and it was grungy, and it was impinging on her life.

The stick looks super grungy, and a lot of people have supported it. So that means we’re able to give money to MS charities in the US and in the UK.

#FUMS

What are your most popular sticks?

The most popular are the clear ones with the bubbles in, clear with a bit of fun. You can opt for a light up stick, they light up really well which has the fun and the safety aspect. It’s fun to go out and have a stick that looks like a light saber, but it also means if you’re out walking the dog at night, people can see you clearly.

Overall, the clear ones with bubbles, the black #FUMS one has been hugely popular, but if you go into colours, it’s always purple. Purple wins, so purple bubbles, Lilibet, which is my favourite too, so I am happy about that.

Handmade in York

Every walking stick is handmade in York, we have nothing on the shelf. You order your walking stick and it’s made to your specifications; your handle shape, your height, the colour rubber ferrule and design that you have chosen.

It can have a grip on, it can be made to light up. Everything is made bespoke.

Recently you have become an Award Winner . .  not one but two awards!

I have never even won a raffle and I won two awards! I won the National Diversity Award 2023 Entrepreneur of Excellence in September. Which was unbelievable, I am still blown away.

Then in November I won the North of England Businesswoman of the Year award. Which is Huge! The other side to that award is it’s nothing to do with disability or diversity, I’m just lumped in there with a load of other lady entrepreneurs. So that makes it very special as it’s a level playing field. It was great to be in the room with all that female power.

You are passionate about using your success to voice the importance of inclusion and normalising disability. What conversations would you like to start next?

I had the privilege of being the opening speaker to the Cambridge University Hospitals, talking about National Disability History Month. This year they are focusing on youth and children, how life is being disabled, the stigma that’s attached and what our prospects are.

I want to encourage people to express their differences, be proud of their differences. It’s starting conversations and putting these conversations out there that bring disability to the forefront and make people talk about it and see the inequality of the world that we have to live in, because we live in a world that isn’t really built for us. But we are expected to try and get on with life as best we can.

I think for the children, who are living with disabilities now. I just hope that the world is more equal for them when they get to be adults and then it becomes their fight as it’s become our fight.

It is so important to have conversations like this. Because I don’t think people realize the challenges. It’s not until you go out into town, I go out into York with somebody and I’m in my wheelchair that they realize just how many places are inaccessible to me and how many times you approach a shop and you can’t get in.

I know that’s just boiling it down to very simple, almost luxuries, but you know, there are lots of things in life that need to be addressed.

What you do at The Live In Care Company, is absolutely amazing. I love the way you support and give confidence. I have the confidence to know that companies like you are out there for when my needs change and I’ll probably be knocking on your door.

Thank you for giving us a window into the Neo Walk world. The Live In Care Company team look forward to following you on your mission of diversity, equality and fabulousness! #neowalkers

Neo Walk Logo – Rainbow Violet

 

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