Max and Liliana Younger’s device could make life less painful for millions.
Liliana and Max Younger, the married couple behind local startup Mobility Designed, have invented a new style of crutch that could make daily life less painful for many patients.
That’s because old-school crutches force users to carry their weight on their armpits, wrists or hands. If you rely on crutches every day—as Max’s dad did when Max was growing up—it can lead to discomfort, chafing and nerve damage over time.
Mobility Designed’s M+D Crutches tweak things so users put their weight on their elbows and forearms. It’s a much less painful arrangement. And because users are resting on their elbows, their hands are free to carry objects and open doors, increasing their mobility.
After years of testing and refinement, the M+D Crutch is expected to go on sale online in the second quarter of this year.
The Youngers are both trained as industrial designers. Max, who started developing the concept for the M+D Crutch in design school, continues to work at Hallmark. Liliana quit her job there more than a year ago to turn the design into a full-fledged business—writing the business plan, pursuing investors and producing a final working prototype.
“Jumping out of Hallmark was hard,” she said. “I loved working at Hallmark.”
The couple has a young child and figured that, as time went on, it would only become harder to start a company. Plus, ever since Max’s dad lost his leg to a staph infection a few years ago, the Youngers have felt an increased drive to get the design out into the world.
“Max’s dad lives in KC, and he’s been our primary user for testing prototypes,” Liliana Younger said. “We’ve been working with him since the concept was born, years ago. We’ve now tested with a few more users and done several focus groups with PT (physical therapist) and OT (occupational therapist) groups.”
Mobility Designed might be a young business, but it’s already achieved some important early success. The Youngers won last year’s Venture Creation Challenge competition at the Regnier Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, taking home $15,500 in prizes. The Missouri Technology Corporation also approved the startup for funding through its IDEA Fund program.
The startup has earned proof-of-concept funding through Digital Sandbox KC and UMKC’s E-Scholars program, and it was one of 20 companies selected to pitch during the LaunchKC grant competition at Techweek Kansas City.
While those early wins are encouraging, the Youngers are motivated most by how the M+D Crutch could make life better for millions of people.
“After all,” Liliana Younger said, “what we really want is for this to be everywhere.”