To tell the full story, I’m going to have to go back to the start.
When I was six years old, my mum took a stroke. She was 34 years old at the time, living in Newry with my Dad and my younger brothers; four years old and eight months old.
After a few months of hard work, she was able to walk again, but unfortunately, she never fully regained the use of her left hand and arm.
I think it’s only now at 23. I really can admire Mum’s strength. I honestly don’t know how she has done it! Mum also made me appreciate the little things in life; all the small tasks I took for granted became a chore for mum.
As my mum has gotten older, with the strain of continually using her right hand; signs of arthritis have started to appear. These small tasks had become just a little bit harder.
After High School, on the day of A-level results, I made a drastic decision. After five years of wanting and planning to study architecture, I decided I was going to study Product Design.
Product Design is learning how to design any object imaginable, even ones that have not been created yet. Looking back on this degree, I feel I was taught a creative skill set which I could apply to any project. Creative thinking is the biggest tool in my tool belt. I have used it in every aspect of my business and life.
So in my first year of product design, we were given a six-week project in which we were allowed to redesign any household object. My mum had a sock aid in which she hated, and being quite crafty, over the years I had made little improvements to it. I decided I would redesign a sock aid. Little did I know this was the start of my entrepreneurial journey.
The reason my mum hated the sock aid (and the majority of the other mobility aids), was because of how they looked. They were so medical and clinical. As my mum once said, “this is my home, not a medical ward.” She would hide them as soon as she used them and no one except for close family would even see her use them!
Imagine buying furniture and every single piece having the choice of only white, blue, pale wood or metal. How boring!
In my second year of university, I joined the Belfast Enterprise Academy (BEA) purely time to get a qualification in business development. I wanted to know more on the subject and coincidently had a sock aid I could bring through the program. At this stage, I didn’t have the intention of actually starting a business.
As my time in the programme went on, I realised how many other people needed and wanted my product, I was blown away! There were so many improvements I still wanted to make on the product, so I got stuck into it. I have done multiple competitions to raise money to allow me to continue doing it, some being successful and others not so much. Every competition gave me so much value and a huge lesson.
Building the business, improving and testing the sock aid became my evening and weekend hobby while I continued with my studies. It amazes me to look back now and realise that the majority of my university projects all centred around disability and improving the lives of others – a subconscious passion that I had no idea about.
Fast forward to now, my vision and passion have come to life.
I created McAnallen to empower people like my mum. I want people to have a product they’re not ashamed to use. I want you to have a choice, to have a product that reflects your personality and blends beautifully into the home.
I hope you like our products as much as mum and I do.
All the best,