Testing the waters – richmondmagazine.com
Erica Cole, 26, could not have imagined that a car accident in 2018 that resulted in the amputation of one of her legs would lead her to a full-time business creating adaptive clothing for adult amputees. Discouraged by the style (or lack thereof) of most adaptive clothing on the market and the poor durability of standard clothing lines when worn over a prosthesis, she began making modifications to her own guard. -dress that suited her and simplified the process of getting dressed. The result is his new venture, No limitincluding a line of functional and stylish jeans.
After Cole launched a Kickstarter campaign a year ago, an ABC producer “shark tank“, the reality show where entrepreneurs pitch their business ideas to top investors, take notice, and invite Cole on the show, airing tonight at 8 p.m.
“What I remember went through my head, ‘This is the greatest moment, I think, until I got married,'” Cole laughs. “The day I was born, the day I go to film ‘Shark Tank’ and the day I get married are probably the three defining moments of my life.”
Although she acknowledges the excitement of her television appearance, getting to this point with her startup has been a long journey. After graduating with a chemistry degree from the University of Iowa in 2019, she had a tough decision to make. She had a job offer from the Los Alamos National Laboratory, which until her car accident and subsequent amputation had been her dream job. At the same time, she received an offer from Target Incubator, a program to help startups grow. Knowing she couldn’t do both, she took the risk and accepted the latter.
“There was just something about No Limbits that I thought I would regret if I didn’t pursue. I was like, ‘If we’re in Target Incubator, there’s something here’, that’s what I did, and honestly, I’ve never really looked back. I’m enjoying pretty much every minute of [the business]”, says Cole.
Building the business then became his top priority, working with a series of incubators and participating in pitch competitions, even participating in a cohort last fall with Richmond. Flagship laboratories, a nationally recognized startup accelerator. This connection brought her to Richmond, where during her visit she was impressed with the start-up resources available, the city’s proximity to other locations such as Washington, DC, and the community spirit. This fall, Cole plans to move to Scott’s Addition and relocate his operations to 1717 Innovation Centera co-working space focused on startup growth located at 1717 E. Cary St. She also plans to hire a few more employees immediately after moving to Richmond with the goal of increasing a few more positions the following year.
“I hope to kind of fill that space,” she says of her office at 1717 Innovation Center.
While she can’t share if she caught a shark tonight, she says the experience was thrilling, even getting the movie star treatment with a team of stylists working to get her camera ready before filming. Cole laughs as he says the most nerve-wracking part wasn’t coming face-to-face with the Sharks (Mark Cuban, Lori Greiner, Robert Herjavec, Kevin O’Leary and guest judge Emma Grede), but worry about tripping on the set.
“[The producers] take you into the room, and they show you where you’re going to stand. The sharks aren’t there, but they show you where you’re going to stand, and they show you your display and make sure everything is displayed the way you want it, and then they’re like, ‘OK, we’ll I’ll train you to go out and find the right rhythm,’ and I kept looking down because I was so scared of tripping,” Cole says. “They probably had their heads in their hands like, ‘Oh my god, this girl can’t even walk straight.’ ”
Upon successfully entering the room during filming, she says she realized that although she had seen the sharks on TV, once she was in front of them they were human like everyone else. world, and the process was similar to the investor meetings she’d experienced before — “although a little faster, maybe a little more intense,” she admits.
Regardless of tonight’s result, No Limbits is currently expanding to offer a range of sensory clothing for adults with high sensory sensitivity, which can make more traditional clothing uncomfortable. A new range of wheelchair jeans styles were also added this fall, which Cole received many requests for through his Kickstarter campaign. Also this fall, No Limbits will begin offering men’s and women’s khakis for amputees, as well as expanding men’s sizing ranges and a new women’s jeans fit. Cole says they are also working on a new limited dexterity clothing line which will be released early next year. In the future, she hopes to partner with retail outlets to sell her clothes.
No Limbits will also appear at New York Fashion Week this fall. Cole already has some fashion show experience after being spotlighted at Los Angeles Fashion Week The Trail of Dreams parade in March, sharing the runway with recognizable brands such as Tommy Hilfiger, Zappos and Kohl’s.
Regarding the goal of No Limbits, Cole says, “It’s to be a place where anyone can come, regardless of their physical challenge, and find something that works for them and also represents his style. We want to be able to have our punk rock queen here and our cowboy there and both able to find something that works for them if they have a disability, and that’s the ultimate mission.
Catch Erica Cole on ABC’s “Shark Tank” tonight, Friday, April 1, at 8 p.m.