broadsideblog

A cool new car for wheelchair users — thanks, Stacy and Istvan!

In business, cars, cities, culture, design, domestic life, journalism, life, Technology, travel, urban life, US, women, work on April 21, 2013 at 12:32 pm

By Caitlin Kelly

I love this story!

A stubborn young women, Stacy Zoern, 33, lives alone in Austin, Texas. A lawyer, she’s sick of never having her independence, as she has been in a wheelchair since birth and totalled her $80,000 customized van.

She Googles the words “electric neighborhood vehicle” and finds a company in Budapest, Hungary, called Kenguru.

Hungary: visa and stamps

Hungary: visa and stamps (Photo credit: Sem Paradeiro)

Her emails go unanswered. She calls — and finds a man there who was educated in the States and who speaks perfect English. She persuades him he must help her make these cars. He moves to Texas with his family. One of her neighbors is a former Wall Street guy — who lends this new company half a million dollars.

She has no business experience, just the absolute determination there is a need for this product, one she has wanted for years; she estimates a potential market of 3.3 million.

The vehicles are now being made in Florida and will be for sale within months.

Journalists are supposed to be cool, detached, objective. The hell with that! I absolutely admire Stacy and Istvan’s unlikely collaboration and hope they have tremendous success with their venture.

Here’s the whole thing, my piece in today’s New York Times.

  1. That’s a great story, Caitlin.
    Best wishes to them for full success!

  2. Great article! I just posted the NYT link on my Facebook page and people are beginning to share it.

    • Thanks!

      I got a lovely phone call this morning from Michael Doherty thanking me for the story. It’s nice to have a feel-good story and be appreciated for it.

  3. Agreed, great article! It’s nice to hear how people can put their determination towards something positive that will benefit many people. Thanks!

  4. I sure wish them the best – there are a lot of wheelchair users who could benefit from this independence. Excellent story.

  5. What an incredible story! It’s so inspirational and brings to light a problem faced by millions of Americans (but overlooked by many): “the social and professional isolation of people who use wheelchairs,” as you put it. It’s great that you’re in a position to bring this problem (and an inventive solution!) to the attention of people around the nation and around the globe. Great article! I wish Stacy and Istvan the best in their venture!

    • I’m really hoping their business takes off. It would be such a vindication of all their work…and help so many people.

      I’m very fortunate that I write for the NYT…it’s a hell of a platform for spreading/promulgating interesting ideas.

      • I can only imagine the countless hours of hard work and determination that went into bringing this project to fruition (not to mention the work that went into researching/writing the article to bring it to the public eye!). It seems like it is much needed in the market, though. I hope they get their success. It’s well deserved.

        With the range of your publications – from books to magazines to newspapers to online articles and blogs – and the variety of topics you’ve covered, it seems like there’s not a market in the world that hasn’t in some way or another been influenced by your writing. That’s a pretty remarkable position to be in (and one that no doubt carries with it a lot of perks but must also have its drawbacks).

      • The irony is that I think I read about Stacy in some random Facebook post many months ago. She has only received one other national press nod, in Time. Istvan, Stacy and Michael have formed this completely unlikely triumvirate. Such a great tale.

        I never even think this way about my work, although that might be possible. There are only a few major mags I have yet to crack, (the big ones — Atlantic, Harpers, New Yorker, NYT mag and Vanity Fair). If anyone saw my income, they’d laugh and wonder why it’s so far less than my workload or visibility would suggest. That’s the ongoing problem and one I just don’t seem to be very good at solving.

        So, to be honest…perks? Hmmmm. Those would be….? :-) I have to hustle as hard as I ever have. The $ is no better, as magazines cut their rates in 2008. There may be a very narrow elite — maybe 10-15% of writers — making $100K/yr +, and maybe a lot more than that, but I’m not one of them, even if I’d like to be. My measure of “success” right now has become very practical: income.

        But thanks for the kind words!

  6. Tell you what, Caitlin. Vanity Fair could use a good writer – I admired Christopher Hitchens but I have read articles in that publication that left me wondering what they were talking about and why am I reading this drivel.

    • They pay $$$$$$$$$ and it’s a career game-changer. I just don’t write the sort of business/Hollywood insider stuff they want. I find them very very good or, as you say, drivel. Not much in between.

  7. So cool!!!! I try not to overuse this phrase but ROCK ON!!!

  8. To say this story is remarkable and inspirational is an understatement. I’m still shaking my head at its positive impact on the lady who thought of it and all the people lives that will forever be better, permanently. With all their electronic wizardry, I’m surprised NBC, CBS, etc. did not air this story. Believe me, everyone could use a good dose of “really good news” for once, not to mention the good this story would do for their new company, Community Cars, and their customers.

    • Much as I was really annoyed (selfishly, as someone who makes her living selling stories) by the media initially shrugging when I tried (in vain) to find an editor who cared, I hope this has indeed put her and CC into the spotlight. The story was featured on the NYT homepage so millions of readers had the chance to view it — and it was heavily emailed (I checked on the NYT site.) I wish her all the best.

      Glad you enjoyed it!

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