You Can Make Tomorrow a Greater Place

Photo of John
Photo of John

There was a time in John Morris’ life when he could not envision his “tomorrow” much less imagine it as a “greater” place. Now a dozen years later this has become his mantra. John has used his personal catastrophic experience to help develop a retrofit suspension system for manual wheelchairs that is helping many others and he is helping to make tomorrow a greater place.

John is a C-4 quadriplegic as the result of a snowboarding accident when he was 18 years old. He is very familiar with the difficulties of life in a wheelchair. “Five years after the accident while attending Colorado State University (CSU) I made the switch from an attendant operated tilt-in-space wheelchair to a power chair,” John said. “When I experienced the much smoother ride of the power chair I wondered why it had suspension but the manual wheelchair did not.” A business idea was born.

John knew from experience that when a typical manual wheelchair rolls over a small bump, cracks in the sidewalk or any rough surface the vibration is directly transferred to the individual sitting in the chair causing sharp jolts and pain. A shock absorbing suspension system eliminates this sensation. John believed this innovation was desperately needed especially for wheelchair users who are non-verbal and can’t express the pain they feel. “The addition of rear suspension also provides greater independence for individuals by increasing the duration of time they can spend in a wheelchair,” John explained.

Soon after his recognition of the need for manual wheelchair suspension John was able to begin transforming the idea into a reality. “One of my favorite quotes is ‘Today’s dreams are tomorrow’s reality’ and the opportunities at CSU began to shape my dream into my reality,” John said. “I enrolled in ‘Introduction to Entrepreneurship’ as part of the requirement for my Business minor. When I told my professor, Burton Deines, about my idea and its purpose he strongly encouraged me to participate in the Venture Accelerator Program through the College of Business Institute of Entrepreneurship at Colorado State.”

“I founded my company, QuadshoX in 2014 for the purpose of producing the suspension system. My experience with the Institute propelled me to a point where within a year I had a viable product,” John said. “The program partnered me with a mentor, William R. Cobb, who is a retired Fortune 50 executive along with two engineering students.” Eventually Cobb left his responsibilities at CSU to become Chairman of QuadshoX and work with John full time. “You simply can’t do these things alone,” Morris said. “We put a pitch together and won the 2015 Venture Accelerator Showcase. Along with this recognition came some prize money to help get a provisional patent as well as some engineering and design work. All of this allowed us to put the entire puzzle together.” Ten years after his life-altering accident, John was well on his way to a fulfilling career that would provide help and comfort to others. Morris acknowledges it would have taken him a very long time, if ever he could, to put everything together to eventually make his product available. “I was confident in the need for the manual wheelchair suspension system, but not so sure how to work through all the steps to make the idea a reality.”

“The team that has helped me throughout this journey believed this was work worth doing,” John said. “Everyone involved wanted to bring this product to life. We never really got paid during the development but we sincerely wanted to help individuals with mobility issues.” John’s support has been much broader than the QuadshoX team. “My family has been incredible and I owe Colorado State University and the community of Fort Collins so much!”

Asking for help was not always easy for John. “When I broke my neck I felt helpless. I was stuck in the ‘ways of John Morris’ prior to the accident and I couldn’t see my way forward,” John said. “My family finally told me to ‘knock it off’ and get some help! I got involved with the Spinal Cord Injury Project and met people with disabilities who were accomplishing many things I never thought possible. That was when I realized I could shape my future and enrolled in college with a major in Economics and a minor in Business. And that led to QuadshoX.”Perhaps the most important member of John’s team – both personal and business - is his fiancé, Arianna Kilmer. “We met in 2012 at a Spinal Cord Injury Project fundraiser and became really good friends. One thing led to another and we’ve been together over five years,” John said. “In addition to our personal relationship, Arianna is now Finance Director and Secretary of QuadshoX. She guided us through the process of getting approval for reimbursement from Medicaid and Medicare for the retrofit suspension device. Arianna was previously director for a company that worked with intellectually and developmentally disabled individuals, but I stole her from that job. She’s a wonderful partner and I couldn’t do this without her.”

It isn’t all work for the couple. John and Arianna enjoy attending all types of sporting events and traveling. “We especially like baseball, football and college basketball. We also enjoy being a part of Fort Collins especially being involved with organizations that help others with disabilities,” John said. The couple also enjoys daily walks with John’s therapy dog, Buddy. “He’s my best friend. I’ve had him six years. He used to go to school with me and now he’s always at work with me.”

John acknowledges that the biggest challenge with his start-up company was trying to put money together. “I had to prove that I was in this for the long haul and that I would use investors’ money wisely,” he explained. “It was difficult to show that there is a market for this product because so much of our research findings were HIPPA protected.” However, he believes the rewards far outweigh the challenges. “It is wonderful to help others!The reward is seeing an individual’s face light up when they can go off road in their wheelchair or watching someone go down a path to go fishing for the first time.”

Recently QuadshoX entered into a relationship with Seating Dynamics in Centennial, Colorado to offer the Dynamic Suspension System (DSS) product line. (https://www.seatingdynamics.com/suspension.) “Now our product will have distribution nationally and we’re considering international distribution as well,” John said. “This is a much needed expansion and we’re very pleased with this opportunity.” The retrofit suspension systems for manual tilt-in-space wheelchairs are now available for the Quickie and Zippie Iris models. The systems will soon be available for additional chair models.

When accepting the Fort Collins Mayor’s Award in 2015 for his dedication to improving the quality of life for those with disabilities, John said, “I want to show the world that if you have any type of mobility issue, you do not have an ability issue.” John has proven his mobility challenges have not inhibited his abilities. “QuadshoX is a dream come true! I never thought I would be where I am today.”

You can contact John Morris at j.morris@quadshox.com
John is founder of QuadShox and lives in Colorado.

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