Ivey grad’s wheelchair start-up gets Londoners rolling

Special to Western News

Megan MacKay graduated from Western’s Ivey Business School as a strong advocate of social entrepreneurship. Her startup, RollUP, has so far helped 25 Londoners buy upcycled wheelchairs at a fraction of the original cost.

Megan MacKay had no desire to wait until after graduation to make her mark.

As a result, 25 Londoners have wheelchairs that otherwise would have been out of their financial reach; a Western non-profit group supporting support social enterprise is thriving; and 14 Western students have had the opportunity to share their best projects at an international competition.

In the process, MacKay’s launch of RollUP Solutions to upcycle used mobility devices has been highlighted in a business case study about social entrepreneurship that has been taught to 1,700 Western students and presented across the world as far away as Qatar.

“After doing hundreds of cases during my time at Western, it was extremely rewarding and surreal to see our names in print,” said MacKay, a new Ivey Business School HBA alumna.

Her inspiration for RollUP Solutions was the realization that about 630,000 Canadians in need of wheelchairs go without because of the device’s average $2,500 cost. At the same time, used wheelchairs often go to the landfill.

“We saw a way to use our business degrees for good, empowering the community through entrepreneurial thinking and match the people who required a device with the devices that would otherwise be thrown out,” she said.

RollUP uses donated wheelchairs and walkers from the community, works with partners at Goodwill Commercial Solutions to upcycle them, then sells the devices for $100 to Londoners in financial need. Users can choose their chair or walker from among a selection online; it can be delivered within a week.

In the past year, RollUP diverted more than 700 kilograms of waste, created three jobs for people at Goodwill and connected 25 Londoners with affordable mobility, for a savings to them of about $62,500.

MacKay is now working out logistics of shipping a container of donated wheelchairs to Fort Hope, a fly-in community north of Thunder Bay. “One woman has been using the same wheelchair for close to 30 years. Her device is currently being held together with ropes and bungee cords,” she said.

RollUP has now been recognized as a top achiever. It will be the face of Goodwill’s new Youth Entrepreneurship Campaign in partnership with RBC; it won the 3M Best Project Solution Award; it was selected as one of the Top 15 business plans across the country through the Queens Entrepreneurship Competition; and it became the first social venture to win the Spin Master Business Plan Competition.

Now that she has graduated, MacKay is chairing the advisory board and bringing on six new Western students to the leadership team.

MacKay also heads the advisory board of Enactus Western, part of an international non-profit that challenges business students to launch community-development projects and social businesses.

When she first became involved in the Western chapter, it was struggling with one project, two members and no staff advisor. A few months later, MacKay had helped recruit more than 50 team members.

This May, the team was solid enough to send 14 members to an Enactus competition in Vancouver, where it won several awards for RollUP and for FoodFund, which has had success in reclaiming, selling and delivering imperfect produce to Londoners.

MacKay was named HSBC Women Entrepreneurial Leader of the Year at the event.

She said the past three years have been “challenging beyond belief, but I have also experienced some of the most rewarding moments of my life.”

She credited her family, Enactus teammates and her roommates who have been an emotional support group, cheering squad and sounding board throughout her time at Western.

Now MacKay is joining the global partnerships division at Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment in a custom intern position that will see her working to elevate women in sports, accelerate Canadian entrepreneurs and integrate social impact into national partnerships.