Though Troy Tech is a relatively new company, it was born out of a huge need for a slim, contemporary, comfortable wheelchair—which was basically unheard-of before 2015. Our line of contemporary travel and daily living chairs grew out of a lifetime of study, experience and innovation, and behind it all is a family of caring, innovative people. All the elements for wheelchair design and entrepreneurship were present in our founder Nate Watkins’ family from the beginning. Growing up in California in the 1960s, his father was a mechanical engineer at a stroller factory, and his mother was a children’s physical therapist. Nate would go on to combine their passions in his life’s work and introduce something the world had never seen before.
One day at the dinner table, Nate’s mother remarked that “it’s too bad you can’t make a stroller for disabled kids.” That sparked an idea for his father, and shortly afterward, he started his own company making pediatric wheelchairs. Nate would come by the factory after school to help with minor tasks, and as the company grew, his interest and responsibilities grew with it. By helping his dad at the factory nights and weekends, Nate learned the basics of fabrication and welding. At one point, Nate was the first and only employee at the factory. Eventually he started splitting his time evenly between school and the factory, and finally he went full-time, working his way up to plant manager and lead foreman. By the time the family sold the factory in 2015, they had 150 employees.
Learning and Innovating
As the company grew and the family started to think about selling it, Nate knew he would have to find work elsewhere. He started Troy Technologies while still working at the factory, selling the same wheelchairs directly to users. Nate started to design his own solo products, the wheelchair handle extender being the first to debut. Over the years he would design many more, some of which are still available.
The idea for the chairs came about while Nate was still working at the factory, just before it sold. He wasn’t quite sure what it was as he drew up the designs, but it received a lot of positive feedback along with suggestions for improvements. People started to ask for things like a narrower profile and the option to add footplates. The original chair became the 360, and as more requests rolled in, Nate started working on the design that would become the Slim-Line. The Slim-Line got a lot of traction and started selling pretty well, but Nate continued to receive constructive feedback and requests for more features. Those suggestions prompted the most recent Troy Tech design, the Dart. That’s a lot of progress for 5 short years!
So Why “Troy Tech?”
The passion for design and engineering was passed down from Nate’s father, and it was a lucky coincidence that his job at the stroller factory combined so well with Nate’s mother’s job at California Children’s Services. Nate reflects, “Had it been any other mechanical thing, I imagine I’d be in the same position designing different versions of that mechanical thing.” Through each evolution of Troy Tech chairs, you can see their tendency towards comfort and function for the user.
So now that you’ve heard Nate’s whole story, you may be wondering—who is Troy? Because Nate’s first design was a travel wheelchair, and he designed it to be more like a toy than a medical device, he put the words “travel” and “toy” together to become Troy. The play on words mirrors Troy Tech’s ethos of innovation and novelty, putting two separate pieces together in a fun new way.
Nate plans to stay in the wheelchair business because of the personal gratification he feels knowing that his designs are empowering people to do things they might not be able to do otherwise. Receiving messages and seeing videos from people with limited mobility using his chairs for the first time always brings up an emotional response, so Nate knows this is what he was born to do. He says he is on a path of growth, always looking for new products to make and new problems to solve. As you can see from his past designs, engaging with customers pushes Nate towards the next best thing in wheelchair design.
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