Torbay Mobility
Torbay Mobility owner Ian Gray talks to THIIS about balancing life as the manager of a busy mobility store while also creating award-winning inventions…

Ian Gray established Torbay Mobility 21 years ago, a business providing sales, servicing and repairs of mobility equipment in Devon and beyond.

Being situated in a popular tourist destination, the shop is frequented by holidaymakers on staycation who may need to hire a mobility scooter or wheelchair, or to get their existing equipment repaired.

Ian states: “There is generally an older demographic in the local area that Torbay Mobility serves and this is naturally beneficial to business.

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“Torbay is also an attractive tourist destination and this has allowed me to develop a hiring part to the business, mainly for mobility scooters and wheelchairs.

“Also, if holidaymakers bring their own wheelchairs and travel scooters, these may still need servicing and repairs even if they are on holiday!”

RollerScoot
Ian Gray demonstrates the RollerScoot

Ian says that his bestselling products are mobility scooters, wheelchairs, walkers and stairlifts. He stocks products from various suppliers, such as Drive, TGA Mobility, Roma, Electric Mobility, Pride, Vinyl Value and Strident.”

The shop also happens to stock a couple of Ian’s own patented inventions, the RollerScoot and BattBoost. In fact, it was through the proceeds of one of Ian’s earliest patented inventions, the shock-absorbing stick, that Torbay Mobility even came to be established…

A natural problem solver

Ian qualified as a chartered physiotherapist in 1990 and after working in the NHS for a number of years he established his own private practice.

Says Ian: “I was always interested in assistive technology and very often, whilst treating people, it was very useful to be able to issue various daily living aids, as they can work very well together to achieve the goal of increasing the patient’s overall mobility, independence and freedom, as well as pain reduction.

“But the daily living aids were invariably standard-issue and not always the best for everyone. Being a natural problem-solver, if needed, I was able to modify them to make them more suitable or comfortable for the patient.

“For example, walking aids hurt people’s hands, wrists and shoulders due to the impact of them striking the ground, and I often attached a softer material to handles of the walking aids.

“I then decided to take this a stage further and develop an actual shock absorber, hence the invention of the shock absorbing walking aid.”

The proceeds from the sale of the shock-absorbing walking aid allowed Ian to establish Torbay Mobility, he says, and to develop more ideas and inventions.

Ian has sold, serviced and repaired mobility scooters and powered wheelchairs for over 20 years and says that he is continually coming up with ideas.

Ian admits that the road from that initial ‘lightbulb’ moment to developing a product is never easy and there are many obstacles to overcome.

He says: “Although I have visualised many new concepts, most never make it any further than in my own mind! And those that do have a series of challenges ahead but developing a

Ian at Torbay Mobility
Ian with the BattBoost and RollerScoot

working ‘proof of concept’ prototype has to be the biggest challenge to overcome because if the concept can’t have a practical application, it’s pointless to carry on. Even then, the working prototype has to fulfil the initial expectations at least, and better than expected is a bonus!”

Ian continues: “Even if the working prototype works amazingly, it’s not all plain sailing by any means. For example, sourcing components for a new concept is always difficult, and some have to be made from scratch right up to the pre-production prototype stage.

“Sometimes even more testing is required before the final product is reached, whilst all the time doing market research to ensure a great idea is also seen as a great product by the potential consumers.”

There is also patenting to sort out as well before the eventual launch of a product.

But it’s all worth it, says Ian. “The satisfaction comes from knowing that I have developed a unique product from a concept that I have visualised to a successful product that helps people overcome problems, make their life easier and increase their independence and freedom.”

Two products of Ian’s inventions that did make it to launch successfully are the BattBoost and the RollerScoot, mentioned previously.

Award-winning inventions

Ian explains that he invented and developed the BattBoost to mitigate “battery trouble”, which he says is the most frequent cause of problems experienced throughout the life of a mobility vehicle.

As Ian states: “The batteries are the lifeblood of any mobility vehicle, give the vehicle power and dictate how far the vehicle can travel. But they have limitations and in time they begin to age, especially if they are not charged regularly.”

Noticing that removable mobility scooter battery packs are commonly 15-20kg in weight and often very awkward to remove for charging Ian set about developing a way to mitigate these issues with the BattBoost.

His product, he says, has been designed to automatically provide additional power to a mobility vehicle as and when required during use (for instance, going up hills), it helps to significantly increase travel range by an additional 10 miles, on average, and usage time, while simultaneously maintaining optimised charge of the mobility vehicle’s batteries.

Ian adds: “And if the batteries remain in a healthier state for longer they last longer, leading to much less breakdowns and a happier mobility vehicle user!”

The BattBoost on a mobility scooter

The BattBoost is a quarter of the size of a battery pack, weighs less than 2kg and is usually all that is required to be removed and charged (using the supplied lithium charger).

Ian says that he has had a fabulous response to the BattBoost from customers. “It seems to be just what users of mobility scooters and powered wheelchairs have been waiting for after putting up with battery problems for years!

“But it has also given the mobility sector a new exciting product, which can only be good to increase revenue for stores, not only through BattBoost sales, but by encouraging greater use of mobility vehicles in general.”

Another product for which Ian said filled a need was the RollerScoot. When Ian first conceived the idea of the RollerScoot seven years ago, he had in mind a cross between a mobility scooter and a wheelchair, but with the additional advantage of being able to stand.

Internationally patent-protected, Ian says that the RollerScoot was the world’s first upright personal mobility vehicle. It has a 360 degree turning circle and folds up to go in the car boot.

Ian explains: “Many people desire a greater level of independence than a conventional walker, wheelchair or mobility scooter can offer and that is exactly what the RollerScoot does.

“It gives people a sense of freedom and it allows them to feel included as they are at the same height and eye-level as those around them.”

Thanks to its lightweight aluminium frame, Ian says, the RollerScoot is easy to take apart and dismantles into three lightweight parts.

“It will fit into a small car boot as well as being suitable for taking on public transport,” comments Ian.

The design of the RollerScoot also allows for it to be easily attendant-controlled, for instance, in nursing and residential homes. When it came out, the product scooped the ‘New Product of the Year Award’ at Naidex, the UK’s largest disability equipment exhibition Naidex at the NEC, in Birmingham.

Ian says that he is now looking for investment or to collaborate with a bigger company to develop a larger, more robust version of the RollerScoot, while he also concentrates on making the BattBoost a global success. Interested retailers and distributors can contact Ian directly (see contact details below).

The future of mobility

Ian is unfazed about balancing his working life as both a shop manager and an inventor. He says: “Owning and running a mobility business alongside my life as an inventor is actually very synergistic and a great advantage, as it helps to enable me to come up with ideas through my knowledge and experience of mobility equipment or encountering people’s problems.

“It also gives me the opportunity for some initial essential ‘market research’ on potential customers, albeit in a way that doesn’t disclose the actual invention itself.

“But once I have got to the stage where the patent has been filed, a more candid chat with customers is very useful to get an idea of my new product’s potential!”

The pandemic has had an impact on Ian’s general mobility business over the past couple of years in various ways. But the key to survival has been diversification, Ian says, and to turn what appears to be a negative into a positive advantage if at all possible.

He comments: “Although I had already started developing BattBoost before the start of the pandemic, even though I couldn’t actually go to the store to work, the lockdown allowed me to work from home and accelerate its continued development, and without so many of the usual distractions!

“People were tending to staycation rather than travel abroad, which, being a natural tourist destination already, increased visitors to this area and also helped with the hiring part of the business too, as well as the servicing and repairs of their own mobility equipment.

“I have also found that people were much more likely to phone first before venturing out, to ensure that I had what they looking for, and to avoid unnecessary journeys. And even then, it is more likely to be friends or relations that initially enquire.”

Although footfall into the shop is not yet back to normal, pre-pandemic levels, Ian says that he feels very optimistic about 2022, especially now that retail is opening up and there are fewer Covid-related restrictions.

“I expect people will still tend to staycation more than they used to before the pandemic and also I think that people may have delayed purchasing mobility equipment, especially equipment used outdoors, and if so, that will lead to a welcome sales boost in 2022!”

Ian thinks that the mobility products of the future will continue to embrace advancements in technology, in new ways of thinking, making life easier for people, whilst keeping in mind the impact on their health and on the environment.

“I come up with new ideas all the time but only focus on those that I feel will be of most benefit to people and solve the biggest problems.

“No doubt I will develop more inventions into products in the future, and these will almost certainly be centred around technology, health, solving problems and making people’s lives easier.”

For the mobility sector as a whole there will still be challenges to overcome over the next year or so, in the wake of Brexit and Covid in particular. Perhaps, and not surprisingly for an inventor, Ian says that new and innovative products are key to helping it move forward.

Ian concludes: “We need to keep the industry exciting and interesting, listen to customers’ needs, improve present products and develop new products accordingly. That’s how we will keep the industry alive and kicking.”

Ian would welcome enquiries from retailers and distributors, and also from manufacturers/investors to make the BattBoost a global success. He is also looking for investment, or collaboration with another company to develop a larger, more robust version of the RollerScoot, which is more suited for general outdoor use as well as for the international, commercial and rental markets. Ian can be contacted directly on 07753 826807 or by emailing torbaymobility@yahoo.com

www.torbaymobility.com

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https://thiis.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/Torbay-Mobility.jpghttps://thiis.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/Torbay-Mobility-150x150.jpgLiane McIvorNewsroomRetailer NewsRetailer SpotlightTrade FocusTrade NewsBattBoost,Mobility,Retailer,RollerScoot,scooter,shop,Torbay MobilityTorbay Mobility owner Ian Gray talks to THIIS about balancing life as the manager of a busy mobility store while also creating award-winning inventions… Ian Gray established Torbay Mobility 21 years ago, a business providing sales, servicing and repairs of mobility equipment in Devon and beyond. Being situated in a popular...News, views & products for mobility, access and independent living professionals