Heidi McKenzie, Fashion Designer with a Disability
This Jeans Designer for Wheelchair Users Wants to “Alter Ur Ego”.
How did you become injured?
I was injured in 2007 from a car accident that left me a t4 paraplegic.
What is your relationship status?
Bachelors in Small Business Management and Entrepreneurship
What inspired you to create adaptive line?
After being crowned Ms. Wheelchair Kentucky 2012. I went on to compete in Ms. Wheelchair America where it was my first experience meeting so many another fashion designer with a disability who were also stuck in chairs. I realized we all struggled with finding fashionable and functional clothing. I wanted to be able to wear jeans like did before my accident and still be able to look good in them and not look like they were made for someone in a wheelchair.
What piece of clothing in your closet is your favorite? That you feel most beautiful and sexy?
My jeans! They fit me just right. I can dress them up and dress them down. Doesn’t hurt that they are designed to make dressing easier.
What is your style? Casual glam glam trendy? Active wear into nightwear?
I love to get all decked out but mostly day to day I am casual but trendy. I love accessorize with hats, scarfs, and jewelry.
What has been your biggest challenge in business?
Mostly marketing and sales. But also finding someone to partner with and help grow the business. So if anyone is interested to work with the fashion designer with a disability hit me up!
Greatest ah ha moment?
Becoming Ms Wheelchair Kentucky 2012 and going on to compete in Ms Wheelchair America and being able to meet so many other amazing girls in wheelchairs was my “ah-ha moment.” Experiencing clothing obstacles on my own was one thing but seeing others struggle was another. I knew I could make a difference first hand.
How challenging has it been to get the financial support to create the line?
I had an amazing line of supporters on my Kickstarter campaign where friends, family and strangers believed in my vision making it fairly easy to access the financing I needed.
Do you feel the market is big enough to support the business?
My struggle has been getting the word out and not having more clothing options. I think the market is there it’s just getting people to try something they aren’t used to. With being a small business I don’t order 100,000 pairs of jeans at a time so they are more expensive but getting people to see the necessity and quality of them.
How are your jeans different?
The accessible pockets on the thighs make them functional and fashionable.
What are your next short term goals to achieve?
Filling my inventory with the popular sizes.
What is your long term BIG Picture Goal?
To one day have a complete adaptive clothing line with shorts, shirts, skirts and pants.
What do you do to stay motivated?
Have fun! Not taking things too seriously and finding the humor in things to make it fun for me and others.
How do you take care of your health in order to be able to sustain the business and your lifestyle?
Making sure I eat right, drink water and stay active. And then drink more water 🙂
What brings you joy?
Getting feedback from customers telling me they are so grateful that I designed a pair of jeans to fit their needs!
What are you favorite non work activities?
I love to travel and play adaptive sports. This past year I went scuba diving, surfing, rock climbing, zip lining, went kayaking and played tennis.
Closing statement to others who wish to start a business?
Let’s be real it’s not going to be easy and something you have to work on everyday. But solving a problem and supplying people with something that makes their life easier makes it all worth it.