Imagine for a moment that you have an old, aluminum folding walker with 2 old tennis balls stuck to the bottom of the legs. You probably really don’t like your walker very much because it is unattractive and doesn’t get you easily from one place to the next. However, it is all you have and there aren’t any other options out there for you to choose from. Or are there?
The Walker Stalker
Let me introduce you to Sue Chen, a.k.a. the “Walker Stalker.” Ms. Chen, founder and CEO of Nova Medical Products, has made it her life’s mission to improve the quality of life for those who are disabled, and she is doing it one walker at a time. She is known as the “Walker Stalker” because she will literally watch people who are using mobility devices that don’t work well, and then approach the individual and offer to help them make their device work better, or give them a “mobility makeover,” which includes determining their needs, learning about their personality and style, then offering them options that are attractive, functional and easy to use. She doesn’t like to see people using old, run down walkers and canes that don’t fit the user or have odd devices on them, like cut open tennis balls stuck on the tips. Instead of tennis balls Sue offers a device called a “Walker Ski” which makes a standard walker work better on any surface, and is much more sanitary.
Sue's success story began with a vision of helping the disabled, as seen through her father’s eyes. Ms. Chen’s father, Dr. Bruce Chen, worked with the disabled at the Veterans Administration Center in Dublin, Georgia. He recognized a need for better medical equipment, but died before realizing a dream to manufacture it. At the age of 14, Sue attended his funeral and was touched by the many disabled individuals who came to pay tribute to her father. The memory of the day would stay with her, being a driving force, though it would be almost a decade before the launch of Nova Medical Products in the United States.
The Four D‘s
After graduation from Trinity University in Texas, Ms. Chen worked with her two uncles from Taiwan and planned the launch of the company that would soon change the face of mobility products in the United States. Sue states in her book, Confessions of the Walker Stalker, that there are four D-words that have been used by others to define those with mobility issues, and changing these words, as well as the way people viewed the disabled, would be the goal for her company.
The Four D's:
Ms. Chen has made it her mission to replace the D-words with those that empower, rather than unfairly label, those who are differently-abled. Some of the words that she uses instead to describe those with mobility issues include Powerful, Determined, Beautiful and Proud. Sue recalls a man that she met in Century City who was using one of Nova’s walkers. He told her “If it wasn’t for this walker, I’d be dead.” She states that she has had a 100 percent positive reaction to her efforts as a “Walker Stalker,” and that is what keeps her motivated to create products that return a sense of dignity, (as well as style, and fun), to the users of her products.
Awards and Accolades
In 2011 Sue Chen was named one of the ten Most Powerful Entrepreneurs in Fortune Magazine’s Most Powerful Women issue. She was also named a finalist in the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year award, a recipient of the Community Leadership Award from the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition and was named Supplier of the Year by Amerisourcebergen. Ms. Chen also published her first book, Confessions of the Walker Stalker: Giving America a Mobility Makeover (With Sexy Canes and Turbo Hot Walkers).
When Ms. Chen isn’t busy championing the needs of the disabled community she is throwing her heart and soul into several philanthropic projects. She is a fierce lobbyist to protect endangered shark species whose numbers have been decimated by a demand for shark fin soup. She successfully lobbied the California legislature to put an end to shark fishing in 2011. Currently she serves as the Director of Shark Savers and is the President of the Reef Check Foundation.
The Future of Nova USA
What is next for Sue and Nova USA after such a successful year? Ms. Chen replied that she has several projects in the works including designing a new interactive website for customers which will provide them with multiple views of the products being offered. In addition, she wants to help medical supply businesses get back on track to sell products that their customers want, instead of just selling items determined by the Medicare system. To accomplish this she is designing the Nova Retail Business Model to empower small business owners, and she’ll be traveling around the United States helping them redesign their showroom floors.
Despite the responsibilities of running a successful company, she still finds time to “stalk” people using old, worn out mobility products. Don’t be surprised if this dynamic woman offers to give you a “Mobility Makeover” on the spot, should you wander into her neighborhood sporting a dilapidated piece of equipment. Be sure to take her up on her offer; you'll be amazed at how good you’ll look and feel with your new “sexy cane” or “turbo hot walker”!