Sometimes invention comes from necessity. Sarah Dillingham launched Grace & Able to address her own frustration with finding gloves to manage her rheumatoid arthritis. What was available was bulky, uncomfortable and ugly -- products designed for medical buyers and athletes, not people trying to live their best lives. Sarah took on this gap in the market and has produced a colorful array of fingerless, fashionable gloves designed for real people like herself. Here’s Her Story!
What motivated you to start Grace & Able?
I have arthritis and need to wear compression gloves and orthopedic braces to support my joints and relieve pain. But they are often uncomfortable and ugly, and I would feel awkward and embarrassed wearing them. This came to a head on my wedding day when I had to wear a bulky beige brace. I customized it to match my dress and shared the photos in an online arthritis community. I discovered that other people shared my frustrations about joint support products – namely why are disability products so f*ing ugly!?!?? So I teamed up with a hand therapist to design better orthopedic braces and compression products.
Tell us a bit more about living with rheumatoid arthritis.
Living with rheumatoid arthritis can be tough. It means pain, fatigue and mobility challenges, and it affects every aspect of my life, including work. I started my own business so that I could work from home, managing my time and energy in a way that works for my health.
What motivates you or gives you joy in life or in business? Is there a person who has inspired you?
I'm motivated to solve a problem that will have a positive impact on a huge number of people. I find joy daily in the little things, I'm a very positive and happy person generally. I'm inspired by the actor and fellow rheumatoid patient Kathleen Turner. She was cruelly mocked in the press for gaining weight because of rheumatoid medications. She went on to make a comeback in her acting career, and speak out about her experiences, raising public awareness about the condition.
What are your hopes for the future?
Everyone deserves beautiful design. We'd like to see patient-centered design become the norm for consumer medical products, rather than the exception. We want to become the No 1 joint support brand, and to disrupt this stagnant industry while we're doing it.
What has been the most exciting or rewarding part of owning your own business?
When our customers tell us that our products relieve their pain and make them happier.
What communities have been important for you as you grew/developed your business?
The arthritis community in general, and the 1 Million Cups entrepreneur community.
If a journalist were to write a headline about your business, what would it be?
Joint support doesn't have to be ugly - Meet the company who's disrupting the industry