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Alejandra Ortiz and Javier Mejía are two young people under the age of 30 who met in the middle of the Industrial Design degree at the Tecnológico de Monterrey. By chance of fate, they agreed on a subject that would change their lives and now they run a company focused on developing teams for people with disabilities.
A path that started from the bottom with the place, the tools and even a borrowed desk, not to mention the money, today it is a unique design office in Mexico.
When you have the will, the talent and even the fang, a simple project can become a company. Alejandra and Javier took a course that was about designing a product for someone with a disability. The Tec de Monterrey and the DIF assigned them to a person, each with a different diagnosis. The team of these young entrepreneurs had a person with quadriplegia due to a motorcycle accident. The aim was to design something that would help them improve their quality of life in any area or daily activity.
The process of creating
In an arduous job of interviews to find out what the person needed and wanted, they began their research to know all the existing devices up to that moment, to be able to stand or walk. Thus they came to the standing chairs (which help to keep the person upright on the lower extremities). These have a high cost for being imported, the most “accessible” Alejandra tells us in an exclusive interview for Entrepreneur en Español, is 120 thousand pesos plus shipping and taxes.
In this way Alejandra and Javier realized the need to have this type of equipment in Mexico, because the majority of people with disabilities in the country have many difficulties to pay for them.
According to data from the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (INEGI), Mexico has a population of more than 6 million people with disabilities.
In order to make the initial prototype, the young people had to invest from their pockets and even borrow money because in the end neither the academic institution nor the DIF sponsored them as it was initially going to be. However, Alejandra and Javier already had a commitment and decided to go to the end. They even won the award for the best project at Tec de Monterrey.
From school to entrepreneurship
After finishing the student project, both the internal media of the school and other communication media made them known. So people started looking for them and even the director of the institution came to take errands. Javier admits that they did not know the impact they were going to have or how many people needed such a product.
In this way they realized that they were forming a company and that it could work. After graduation they had their first fit client. “The same project led us to the right people,” reflects Alejandra.
Image: Courtesy: Puro Diseño Mexicano
In 2016 they entered the National Design Award and won in three categories; Best Medical Equipment Design, Concept Design and Product Design. In that edition they were recognized with an economic prize of 50 thousand pesos, which helped them to start financing and promoting the project.
Although in Puro Diseño Mexicano they are few, they have alliances with blacksmiths and have the workshop to adjust details of the products. In addition, in their entrepreneurship process they had to learn to balance the workload: while Javier focuses on production, Alejandra takes care of administrative issues.
The two pillars: accessibility and customization
The young people explained to Entrepreneur en Español , that from the beginning they were very clear about what they wanted to achieve: make this type of device available to more people and that it be manufactured here in Mexico using local products and talents. In addition to promoting fair trade.
“ They sell them as if they were household appliances. Products made in series that are not designed for the needs of each user ”, Alejandra comments regarding the equipment that most of them sell are not personalized.
“As disability is so diverse, it is very difficult for a chair to fit all people even if they have the same diagnosis .” For that reason, all its chairs are custom-made with the needs of each client in mind, “none is the same as another”, in the words of the entrepreneur.
As for the prices to the public, they are far from a device bought abroad. The cheapest chair to stand up (because it is manual) is around 27 thousand pesos, on the other hand, the one with the highest cost (because it is totally electric) costs approximately 55 thousand pesos. That same type of chair in another part of the world is worth more than 300 thousand pesos.
Image: Courtesy: Puro Diseño Mexicano
Although they started with the standing chair and it has had several modifications to adapt to different diagnoses, now they also manufacture other types of chairs, not only to be able to stand up. For example, electric chairs, active (for daily use), children, accessories for postural control of children and exercise bikes. In general they are products to carry out activities that you cannot with a “normal” chair. In addition to rehabilitation equipment with virtual reality.
With organic growth, they already make shipments to the entire Mexican Republic from their website and plan to expand their market to Latin America. They are still on their way to make society more equitable by helping people every day from their workshop and even naming the chairs with the surnames of their clients. Although it is a business, young people often consider that the retribution is more emotional.
“Disability is not a physical limitation, it is a social fact and, by generating these tools to make them available to people, we help reduce segregation and promote the construction of more plural and inclusive communities”, Alejandra Ortiz founder of Puro Diseño Mexican.