Blue Badge Company: Accessories for AccessibilityBy Claudia Knight -
For most, when it comes to disability, the words ‘stylish’ or ‘cool’ rarely come to mind. For those with mobility issues, carrying and displaying their blue badges can be seen as a mundane, routine procedure. In my opinion, this is a viewpoint which should be challenged and changed – why should those with disabilities have to settle for anything less than everyone else?
Ellen Green, the owner of Blue Badge Company has done exactly this. Through observing the limited options her friend faced five years ago when selecting her first blue badge holder, the idea to create colourful, attractive wallets was born. Lovingly hand-made in Bristol, the blue badge wallets created by the Blue Badge Company are quickly becoming a stylish and practical staple item for everyday life.
At Limitless Travel, we had the privilege to speak to Ellen herself to find out more about her innovative company.
- Q: When creating the business, what was your main goal?
- A: Just over five years ago, my friend received her first blue badge and all she could find to put it in was a black plastic holder with a wheelchair logo on the front. We were fed up with the universally dull, clinical products available to disabled consumers, so our goal was to create colourful display wallets that would inject some style into the disability market! Since taking over the business in 2013, I have continued to champion choice and individuality in everything we do at Blue Badge Company.
- Q: Where do you find inspiration for the new patterns and collections?
- A: Over 40% of our team have first-hand experience of a disability, so we share ideas for new collections and designs at regular new product meetings. We’re proud to make everything in the UK, and great British designers are a real source of inspiration for us; our William Morris collection in particular has proved extremely popular!
- Q: Disabilities can often be viewed from a very clinical perspective. Would you say that your wallets make disability more stylish and, as a result, are people’s views and perceptions changing?
- A: I really hope so, as it’s one of the founding principles of Blue Badge Company to create products that say more about people’s personality than their disability. Stigmas and preconceptions around disabled consumers run deep, but we believe things are slowly changing for the better. At Blue Badge Company we want to spearhead the movement to put desirable practical solutions alongside mainstream gifts - there’s no reason why the two should be separate!
- Q: Do you think your wallets encourage those with disabilities to be proud to carry a blue badge and be more open about their mobility issues?
- A: I’d like to think so, yes. For our customers, having a smart and stylish wallet to put their blue badge in is a small change that can make a big difference to how they feel. We aim to make life easier and brighter with our fun and funky designs, and if one of the impacts of this is that people feel more comfortable with who they are, then that’s definitely a bonus!
- Q: Products for those with disabilities are not often seen on Dragons' Den. How well do you feel your pitch was received?
- A: My pitch was extremely well received, the Dragons loved the product, its quality and our company values. It was an amazing opportunity to put desirable living aids in the spotlight on primetime TV and it really helped to raise our profile as a new brand on the scene. Hopefully it also encouraged other disability-related businesses to take the plunge and enter the Den, helping to bring these products to the mainstream!
- Q: Were you always determined to keep the business a UK-based one?
- A: Absolutely! Rather than moving to low-cost production overseas, we have always stuck to our core values and maintained UK production of all our products, creating job opportunities for those who find it most difficult to find employment. Because of the way we have chosen to manufacture, we support those with limited work options, like people who have domestic responsibilities or disabilities. I turned down an offer of investment from Touker Souleyman on Dragons’ Den because he indicated that in order to continue growing we’d have to take our manufacturing out of the UK, but we’ve proved him wrong and the business has gone from strength to strength since the show aired in August 2015.
- Q: You completed an order for 10,000 wallets for Boots in just 6 weeks – how was that?
- A: It certainly wasn’t a walk in the park! But I’m very lucky to work with an amazing, committed team who all pulled together to deliver on the order that has cemented us as reliable, high-quality suppliers for major high street retailers. I’m still really proud of what we achieved in such a short time, and our hard work has paid off no end ever since!
- Q: What has been the biggest challenge you have faced so far?
- A: When you’re a disruptive company that’s challenging the status quo like we are, it's certainly very challenging and I've learned to react as positively as I can. I work hard to ensure that our products get equal promotion and to awaken retailers to the increasing demand for desirable mobility products.
- Q: In the future, what is the biggest challenge you think you will face?
- A: We’ve had great success in the UK and now we face the exciting challenge of bringing our stylish living aids to the European market. We know that there’s huge potential for offering more choice to disabled people overseas, and we think they’ll love our British-made accessories in uplifting patterns and fabrics!
If you can't wait to get your hands on some Blue Badge merchandise, take advantage of our exclusive discount code. Enter LMTLS at the online check out to get 15% off everything on their website!
To read a review of one of the wallets, head over to this blog post.