Last updated on March 17th, 2020 at 01:38 pm
Harry Schroeder was working as a contractor in 2014 when a client who used a walker asked if he could build him something that would allow him to get out of chairs independently at restaurants.
Convinced that such a device already existed, Schroeder hunted on the internet for something that could help his client, but his search came up empty.
Schroeder decided to create his own device, which would become known as the EZ-Sit.
The EZ-Sit is a portable arm rest system designed to help those who struggle to rise independently from chairs. The original client who asked for a device represents the target demographic for the innovation.
“He (the client) wanted to go meet his buddies at a restaurant and just be independent and have dignity,” said Mary Schroeder, co-owner of Innovations US LLC, maker of the EZ-Sit. “And that’s what he was looking for, not outside help; he wanted to do things himself.”
In addition to the elderly, potential EZ-Sit customers could also include those with medical conditions that affect their body strength, who could benefit from the stability the EZ-Sit provides.
Potential daily uses for the device include putting it on the arms of a dining room chair at home, when going out to eat, using it in the bleachers at a game or in the pews at church, Mary said.
Harry and Mary currently have two design patents and one method-of-use patent. The Schroeders are exploring a partnership with a “large company in Wisconsin” to bring it to market, Mary said.
The Schroeders tried several prototypes of the EZ-Sit before settling on the final model.
After creating the first prototype – which Harry described as “very crude looking” – they decided to build a device that was both stronger and cheaper.
The next iteration was too heavy, which caused an issue for customers who are unable to manage a lot of weight. The next version was just six-and-a-half pounds and capable of holding a 300-pound person.
But the Schroeders discovered the limitations of that version.
While the couple demonstrated the EZ-Sit on entrepreneurship pitch show Project Pitch-It on WISN-TV Channel 12, the arms of the device broke. At that point, Harry realized that when people get out of a chair, they tend to push sideways, rather than directly down, on the arms.
They approached an engineer to fix the problem.
Despite the mishap, EZ-Sit won the show’s Stritch Pitch Award, which includes business classes at Cardinal Stritch University, office space and guidance from a professor for 12 months. The Schroeders worked with a business professor to draft a business plan.
“We had no idea how to do those things,” Harry said.
During the development process of the EZ-Sit, Harry and Mary took their product to several conferences to gauge interest and receive feedback. At an AARP convention in April, they asked a woman with a walker if she was willing to give the EZ-Sit a test. Her response was a positive one.
“She said, ‘Oh my goodness, this is a wonderful idea. My friend, when she goes out to restaurants, takes PVC pipes in a little bag and she puts together arm rests for herself so she can get up by herself,’” Mary said.
To the Schroeders, that interaction demonstrated the EZ-Sit’s viability as a product.
Innovations US LLC
Innovation: The EZ-Sit, a portable arm rest system
Founders: Harry and Mary Schroeder