“Success isn’t about how much money you make; it’s about the difference you make in people’s lives.”- Michelle Obama, attorney and former First Lady of the United States.
An embodiment of these words, Steven Claeys, a diligent leader, has dedicated his life to revolutionize healthcare through ingenious ideas. This exemplary entrepreneur has not only transformed his vision to reality, but has also embraced all his strengths and weaknesses and leveraged them to bring a radical change in the care industry for the welfare of people. Being bound to a wheelchair at an early age due to an unfortunate accident, Steven realized that the manufacturers of medical aid equipment for wheelchair users could not understand the needs of their customers and that the users faced multiple side-effects owing to this. Thereafter, he set on a path to make things better for the people facing similar problems and hence, Sitwear bvba was born.
In the capacity of Sitwear’s CEO, Steven has led the company to improve the lives of several differently abled individuals through innovative products. Instead of giving in to the diseases, he used his experience to conquer major setbacks of healthcare, liberating wheelchair users to pursue their goals and dreams.
A Journey of Will and Determination
A lawyer by education, Steven met an accident during his Master’s studies, which left him completely paralyzed from the chest down and partially paralyzed in arms and hands, at the age of 24. Following the accident, he started a Dutch blog platform in 2015 named “Rolmodel”, where people could share their stories about being disabled. With 7000 unique visitors in 2018, it became one of the biggest Dutch blog platforms about life with a disability. Steven was honored with the Belgian TOYP Award by JCI Belgium for impactful reporting with Rolmodel, in 2016.
In 2016, Steven founded Sitwear bvba and started developing highly adapted trousers for wheelchair users that address all the distinct problems that people with a seated lifestyle face, when wearing clothes. The following year, he was chosen as one of the Ten Outstanding Young People of the World by JCI for his work with Sitwear.
For his incredible contribution to healthcare, Steven has also been nominated as the Young Antwerp Entrepreneur of 2018. He continues to fight the prejudice and stigma regarding wheelchair users and the impact of disability on one’s life, about which he spoke at TEDxBreda.
An Unflinching, Compassionate Leader
Steven has always looked up to people like Greta Thunberg and Colin Kaepernick, who do not put their own needs first, and great innovators like Cenk Uygur and Elon Musk. His sense of accountability, integrity, and passion, along with an indomitable spirit and brilliant insights, made him think out-of-the-box and drive a revolution towards holistic betterment in healthcare. “One of the biggest contributions in my opinion has been creating awareness about the lack of involvement of patients and customers in the design and development of healthcare products. I’m also particularly proud of motivating young people with and without a disability to start their own company and tackle their healthcare issue with ingenuity and community involvement, making specialized care more accessible and affordable,” asserts Steven.
Being an open minded leader, Steven believes in leading by example. He says, “If I want people to understand me and my situation I need to be willing to talk about every aspect of my life. I’m also very open to people’s ideas, arguments and opinions because I feel that is the best way to grow as a person.”
About Sitwear bvba
Incepted in 2016, Sitwear bvba is an emerging healthcare company in Belgium. It aims to provide value by improving the quality of life for wheelchair users. Sitwear realizes that people who are permanently bound to a wheelchair have some very distinct problems that need very specific solutions and therefore provides unique products for this specific market.
Sitwear is the only company in Europe which focuses on pressure sore prevention both through adapted clothing and free lectures to raise awareness. The company’s “Ultimate Wheelchair Trousers” are extremely adapted trousers tailored to a seated lifestyle, tackling the biggest problems all wheelchair users face: preventing pressure sores, being able to (un)dress independently, sit comfortably, and still look fantastic.
Sitwear wants to create a world where people who are permanently bound to a wheelchair are free of preventable health issues and are empowered to reach beyond their limits; a world where wheelchair users are as independent as possible and experience the same level of comfort as everyone else. It provides unique products for a very specific market.
What’s Ahead for Sitwear?
Sitwear plans to aggressively expand geographically and grow its product portfolio in the coming years. Currently operating from Belgium and Netherlands, the company is set to enter the UK market next year. “There are a lot more projects and ideas to be explored in the future,” says Steven. “I am very passionate about what we are doing with Sitwear and as we grow so does my ambition to improve the lives of wheelchair users across the world,” he continues.
According to Steven, although large multimillionaire corporations dominate the healthcare markets, it is the emergence of new, small businesses that bring in innovation, cost-effectiveness, and augment the quality of services. These are the businesses that have closer ties with the communities that use their products, allowing them to create far superior products. “They shift their focus from making profits to providing value, at a time where it is crucial for businesses to create a bond with their customers to instill loyalty, these smaller companies become the preference of the market,” asserts Steven. He further adds, “I believe this is the way to move forward, to have a healthcare industry that cares about its customers, that wants to provide value and in doing so creates amazing products and services that are far superior to what is available now.”