While doing research for his business, Founder of 911 The Wheelchair, Doctor Ernest Majenge realized that there are a lot of services that disabled people need.“A lot of people need their wheelchairs fixed but the turnaround time is long or they do not even know where to go to get the necessary adjustments. It was during this time I came up with the idea to create a wheelchair that can easily go up the stairs,” said Majenge.
Majenge who is also an Accountant by profession, found it expensive and difficult to make a prototype in SA and have it approved, so he approached a French wheelchair maker of similar products who agreed to help him get off the ground. He said he had approached numerous companies in SA and pursued funding opportunities but was not assisted.
“The investor is an old man from Paris and we were talking via Skype and after that we came to an agreement and signed a contract saying he will help me develop it, and if it is successful, he will take a portion of the company, “said the entrepreneur.
The wheelchair works by gripping on to the stairs to protect the user from falling off while someone easily pulls them up. To make the unique wheel chair,Majenge made sure that he was assisted by skilled people who have been working in the industry for decades.
“We have now sold five wheelchairs to people in Paris but this is from the first prototype. I still want to improve the product so that it can be lighter,” he said.Despite his success, the lockdown has paused his efforts in entering the European market. “I was supposed to go to France last year but while waiting for my visa to be approved Covid-19 happened,” noted Majenge.
In 2018, Majenge won R25,000 in seed funding from the Y-beca and Transnet Matlafatso Centre which was sponsored by IDC at Wits for his business proposal.His business repairs and customizes wheelchairs. According to Majenge,the repair part of the business has boomed, with people even calling to customize their children’s wheelchairs.
“Currently, I have 20 people who need us to fix or customize their wheelchairs. A lot of people want to make their children’s wheelchairs fun,” he said. Furthermore, Majenge is also working on a wheelchair that can be used in rural and township environments. “A lot of wheelchairs are designed for urban use, so I want to tackle this problem,” he said.