Susanne Shoemaker, Undercare Inc.
Many years ago, Susanne Shoemaker observed some elderly women who were struggling to dress themselves at the YMCA in White Plains, NY following their arthritis swim class and thought, “there must be an easier way for them to put on their underwear.” They appeared to have difficulty bending, balancing, and putting their feet and legs through the leg opening. She decided to re-think underwear and went home and began sketching out ideas for easy-on, easy-off undergarments for individuals with mobility impairment. She came up with a working prototype and decided to start a business, Undercare.
Undercare’s targeted market is senior adults, individuals recovering from injury, and persons with chronic impairment, such as arthritis, or amputation of a leg, any one whose mobility is limited. Susanne is working with the Veterans Administration, which has shown great enthusiasm for the products and Nordstrom’s has expressed interest as well as other retail facilities. Large rehabilitation facilities will be targeted as well.
Because she lacked manufacturing and design experience, it took a long time for Susanne to develop the product line. Negotiating and learning about manufacturing, in particular, was a huge challenge. She had to learn about fabrication, pattern and sample making, production, sales and marketing, and much more. However, Susanne found outside resources that were very helpful in teaching her how to become an entrepreneur and launch a business, including WEDC’s 15-week training course. As she said, “I am very grateful to WEDC for their help in getting me started. I learned a great deal in the 15-week entrepreneurship class. Everyone within the organization was always responsive and helpful.” Susanne also participated in mentorship programs offered by IBM and Master Card, which further increased her confidence and skill level.
In June 2012, WEDC awarded Susanne the LANZA prize. Another milestone was reached when she achieved a product patent in March 2013. The full-scale launch of Undercare Inc. will take place this fall. Susanne has worked very hard to get to this point and she is very excited to be here.