Tuesday, 28 September 2021

Are you sitting comfortably?

TWO women from Wargrave have designed a cushion for sufferers of back pain.

TWO women from Wargrave have designed a cushion for sufferers of back pain.

Rachael Wall and Lorna Kennard, of Spring Walk, are both back therapists and say many of their patients complain about back pain caused by their sofas at home.

They initially thought they could design a whole sofa to tackle the problem but were put off when a friend told them a prototype could cost £100,000 to make.

Instead they decided to make cushions that would fit on any sofa.

They designed the cushions with a special curve to support the lower back and used a firm stuffing to keep them plump.

The development work took more than six years and cost the women tens of thousands of pounds but now the cushions are finally on the market, selling under the name Sittingwell.

Miss Wall, 40, a chiropractor, said: “When someone has back pain it’s often their sofa that is causing it and they can’t sit on it because of the pain. They often have to pull up a chair and feel separated from their family, which is frustrating. Sofas are designed for rooms, not for people.

“Office furniture has become more ergonomic and focused on health and safety but that stops when you get home. We thought there had to be a solution to make sofas more comfortable without looking like a medical product.”

Miss Wall and Miss Kennard, 37, a sports massage therapist, made the first prototype out of papier-mache and a second from mouldable polymorph beads.

However, the couple had to shelve the idea for two years after losing several thousand pounds on test cushions from a product design agency that they weren’t happy with..

Their idea eventually got off the ground again after Miss Kennard went to a meeting where she learned about a Brunel University scheme where students offer to help design and create real-life products as part of their dissertation.

The women submitted a brief to the university and them chose student Sophie Edmonds-Allen to work with them designing the cushions.

Miss Wall said: “We had three interested students but picked Sophie after we saw her CV. She really brought the idea to life.

“We knew what we wanted but we didn’t have the manufacturing knowledge. She worked out all the data behind the curve and all the technical drawings.

“By April we had a prototype as well as different densities and sizes.”

The women struggled to find a mass manufacturer for the cushion despite having the prototype. They scoured the country before they found Imagineers in High Wycombe thanks to a chance conversation with a friend.

Miss Wall said: “We looked for a manufacturer for nine months and one made up some prototypes that weren’t right while others didn’t have a specialist piece of machinery we needed.

“Imagineers have been amazing. After searching the whole country we ended up with someone just down the road!”

The first batch of 200 cushions is already for sale online and the women have sold some to their patients.

Miss Wall said: “The feedback has been very good. One patient I haven’t had to treat since, so it has cost me a fortune!”

The women hope to expand the business to sell cushions at clinics and have also had interior designers expressing an interest.

Miss Kennard said: “At the moment it’s just online but we are hoping to expand, although we don’t want to grow too quickly. It’s all about whether this can scale up. We’ve had enquiries from Australia.”

The cushions cost £69.99 each for a feather stuffing or £59.99 for polyester fibre. For more information, visit www.sittingwell.co.uk

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