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Cobh parents launch business that helps source shoes for kids with special needs
For his loving parents April and Rob Mullen, from Cobh, Co Cork, their love for the little boy is clear to see – dedicating their lives to make his path a smooth one.
Kian was born with a rare genetic condition called Fox-G1 – it means that he is non-verbal, non-mobile and tube fed.
There are challenges to help Kian live to the fullest. From sourcing equipment and clothing to the intensive medical assistance he needs.
Rather than seeing those difficulties as a burden April and Rob have embraced it in a courageous way – constantly finding the solutions to overcome.
This has given them a clear insight on how to adapt and overcome the various bumps in the path along the way.
April explains: “Although Kian’s condition has introduced a whole range of challenges, he never gives up and remains our bright, happy and determined boy.
“Kian’s condition has meant that over the years we have had to source a lot of inclusive products to assist him in everyday life. One challenge was to find shoes that Kian could wear day-to-day and would fit over his orthotics or Ankle Foot Orthosis (AFOs).”
That challenge to find the right foot wear became the next focus and they took to the internet to find a way around it.
“Luckily, one day we stumbled across Billy Footwear, which ticked every box for us. We couldn’t believe it – a shoe that was stylish, functional and most importantly easy to get on.
“Once we received our first pair of Billy shoes there was no going back, it may sound silly but something as simple as finding the right pair of shoes for Kian made our daily life so much easier,” she added.
Billy Footwear was the solution they were looking for and it gave Kian a way to make his life just that little bit easier.
As all parents know children grow out of their clothes in a matter of months.
For April and Rob, and many Irish families with loved ones in need of specialist shoes, Billy Footwear has been their salvation.
But again another challenge was placed in their path – the obstacle that the shoes were only available in the US.
This meant high shipping costs, import duties and long delivery times.
Rob added: “When you have a child with orthotics, sizing a shoe can be difficult and the cost of returns was not feasible. In the past we have ordered shoes that were the wrong size for Kian and instead of returning the shoes we gifted them to some else.
“We continued for the next few years buying Billy’s from the US but always hoping they would eventually be available in Ireland.”
As the years ticked by the costs mounted and April and Rob decided to take the leap and bring Billy Footwear to Ireland.
April said: “We’ve sat down and had countless conversations and just decided to bite the bullet and work with Billy Footwear to bring them to Ireland and help other families like us.
“Our main goal with this venture is to help other parents like ourselves – to give them access to what is available.
“Your life as a special needs parent can be challenging and isolating at times and we just want to help elevate this in helping parents source a functional, universal and stylish shoe for their child.”
They have launched their own company here in Ireland to make that dream a reality.
And the name of the company? Keeks - Kian’s nickname among his loving family.
“In the future our goal is to make a wider range of products available to help assist parents and children with special needs.
“We are also selling Polly & Andy seamless bamboo socks to our product range which will go perfectly with the BILLY shoes, including a knee high sock which is perfect to go under AFOs/orthotics.
“We have just confirmed the addition of mum2mum bibs and bandanas going from infant up to supersize for adults.
“We will continue to listen to our customers’ needs and hopefully use our new platform to source more products which are not readily available in Ireland,” Rob added.
To contact us directly to discuss this: April is available on 0871859488 or email email@example.com.