Sunday 22 September 2019

Former farmer turned entrepreneur creates mobility tools after debilitating farming accident

Richard Weldon, the founder of FitSticks
Richard Weldon, the founder of FitSticks
Richard Weldon (58)
Louise Kelly

Louise Kelly

A former farmer who suffered a debilitating injury while fixing machinery has used his entrepreneurial talents to create mobility tools which have caught the eye of the LA Galaxy team.

Richard Weldon (58) had been working on his family farm in Rush, Co Dublin in his early teens when a farming accident in 2011 completely changed the course of his career.

Richard Weldon (58)
Richard Weldon (58)

"I had a harvester on the farm and I was doing work on it at 5am when there were no other staff in when I somehow got caught up in the machine," he told independent.ie.

"I suffered serious injuries to my arm and my shoulder and it was when I was in the hospital in Beaumont that the idea for the ProFitStick came about".

While in physiotherapy, Richard had been using aids to increase the mobility in his arm but believed he could come up with something himself that would be more effective for recovery. It was then that the ProFitStick prototype was made.

"I fashioned a bit of malleable plastic and drilled a hole in the wall for it and I was able to bend back and forward with my arm," he said.

"I was winning. Then I realised that I could work and make it."

After folding up the farm business, and a subsequent move to Kilkenny - where his wife Philomena is originally from, Richard spent the next few years researching, designing and developing the product.

Fitsticks
Fitsticks

The ProFitStick was finally launched in November 2016 in conjunction with the Local Enterprise Office in Kilkenny and Carlow IT.

"Now it's all about getting the word out there; everyone who sees them wants them and love them," said Richard. And he doesn't appear to be exaggerating.

The Golfing Union of Ireland and European Tour physiotherapist Orlaith Buckley have recommended the product - but its popularity has reached even further afield.

"We grew up in the same town as Stephen McPhail and he mentioned the product to Robbie Keane and Stephen Gerrard who've also tried and continued to use the ProFitstick," Richard's daughter Sara said.

From a background in photography and retail, Sara (35) was on maternity leave after the birth of her son when she was offered to help her father out with the company.

"I deal with social media and networking across Ireland and the US and co-ordinate with them with Dad assembles the products when the pieces arrive from China," she said.

"Our target market is wide open, the ProFitStick can benefit anyone universally, in all age groups and of different sports levels. It's suitable for men, women, golfers, the active retired and those recovering from injury. It is even used by regular gym goers in their active rest time."

The father-daughter duo report that the reception of the product "has been amazing". Founder of Caliente Fitness Jason Rosell approached the family firm and used the ProFitStick in a video on his Facebook page, which has over 500,000 followers.

"Mobility fitness is huge in the US, particularly in California, right now. It's not about going to the gym and working out simply to look good. It's training for the long term health and fitness benefits," said Sara.

The lightweight handheld flexible ProFitStick retails for €29.99 while the second product in the range, the ProFitstick Massage, can be purchased for €49.99.

"We wanted to make the product as accessible as possible while making a profit. With the ProFitStick, you're talking simplicity with maximum benefit. It might not cure you completely, but it improved his mobility and strength, and it can get you on the road to recovery," said Sara.

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