EXCLUSIVE: Atelier Rehab founder looks back on successful first year despite COVID

Kate Kearney II

Kate Kearney, of standing device specialist Atelier Rehab, looks back on the challenges of having started up her business during the year of COVID.

I’ve always been interested in other languages and I initially studied for a French and German degree at university. Upon graduating I was keen to find a role that would need this skillset. For the next few years, I worked for Dynamic Controls as a European Training Manager; training customers based all over Europe on a range of mobility products in their native languages.

As time went by my role developed from training to completing assessments for special controls and working more and more with the patients and end users. I came to love this part of the job. Our products really could impact on the lives of people with profound disability and I felt I had found an industry with a real sense of purpose.

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After a few years I was approached by Invacare to become their Territory Business Manager for a group of product lines across Europe. This role combined hands-on training and assessments with a great deal of travel. I have many fond memories of this time.

I would often travel by road at the helm of my VW Transporter, heading for interesting and amazing places around Europe that I may never have visited otherwise. It wasn’t always glamorous (flat tyres, wrong turns and many hundreds of hotels) but it was great fun and every trip turned in to a real adventure!

During this time, I began to develop a real affinity for the Easystand range from Altimate Medical. So much so that I ended up becoming an independent rep for them in 2014 when Invacare sold Altimate. In doing this I had to set up my own consultancy company and start learning many of the other facets to running a business, such as tax returns and PAYE. 

In 2019 my customer for Altimate Medical in the UK decided to stop importing the Easystand range. I was still very passionate about these products and I felt I knew them inside-out. Standing is such an important aspect of life for a person with limited mobility and I knew I had to keep the product line going. So, I thought “why don’t I import them instead?!”

So, after a little trepidation and deliberation, yet another new business venture was born – Atelier Rehab! ‘Atelier’ means ‘workshop’ in French and so the company name and branding reflects my own background in languages, to which I owe this whole adventure.

I have hired Dean Southworth as my sales manager and Amy Sehmbhy as my bookkeeper and general life saver! Dean is a fantastic asset for the company – he has a long history in the industry and has enthusiasm by the bucket-load, not to mention his knowledge of the product-line, which is second to none! Without them both I would be truly lost and owe an awful lot to them.

The start of 2020 offered exciting new beginnings. Setting up the new business was tough at first, made that little bit harder by having a rather hectic two-year-old at home! Just to add to the challenge I was also five months pregnant with my second child, so I certainly had my hands full!

After a promising first few weeks, coronavirus made its presence known and everything was knocked off its axis. However, looking back on the last twelve months, I remain incredibly pleased and proud of the progress we have made.

We’ve had to be resilient, adaptable and open minded and we’ve needed to remain positive and find new ways of working through some difficult times for everyone. But we’ve come through it with many new customers and financially we’ve managed to sail through the storm with our crew and cargo intact!

I’m now more excited than ever to see what we can achieve this coming year when the seas are hopefully a little calmer. I can’t wait to get out and see more of the people who need our standing equipment and product lines.

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Tags : MobilityWheelchair
Lee Peart

The author Lee Peart

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